The concept of power in the workforce has a negative connotation. It brings to mind such associations as coercion, manipulation, and even corruption. This does not have to be the case. Power has many positive aspects, and everyone can learn to explore and harness different sources of the individual power they have in the workplace. By developing their own sources of power, employees will be less dependent on others for the leadership they need and thus be better able to take initiative and make a greater contribution in their jobs.
In our program called Situational Self Leadership, we take a different perspective on power. We suggest that “The sole advantage of power is the ability to do more good.” Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your own points of power.
Points of Power. There are at least five power sources you can develop in any job, all of which relate to each other in varying degrees: Position power, task power, personal power, relationship power, and knowledge power.
Position power is inherent in the authority of the position you have. You have position power when your business card has a title printed on it that indicates you have the power to manage people or command resources. My dad, an officer in the Navy, used to say, “The best leaders are those who have position power and never have to use it.”
Task power is power that stems from being good at a particular task at work and being able to help others with a process or procedure they may need to do.
Personal power comes from your personal character attributes such as strength of character, passion, inspiration, or a personal vision of the future. Personal power is further enhanced by the strength of your interpersonal skills, such as your ability to communicate well and be persuasive with others.
Relationship power comes from association with others through friendship, personal understanding of a colleague, cultivation of a relationship, nepotism, or reciprocity (trading favors).
Knowledge power is about having expertise in an area. This is often through knowing a special skill or group of skills in your job, but is also evidenced by having certain degrees or certifications indicating special training. Knowledge power can often be transferred from job to job or from company to company–it is a general type of power.
Charting Your Points of Power
An enlightening activity is to list a number of workplace situations or conditions where you feel you have the power to influence outcomes or people. Next to each item, categorize the type of power you have in that circumstance.
Now draw a five-pointed star with ten hash marks from the center to the tip of each point. From the center of the star, mark off the corresponding number of responses you listed in your assessment of each type of power. The farthest hash mark you indicate on each arm of the star becomes the new tip of that arm. Connect these new points. The resulting graphic should be some semblance of a star, with certain points having more emphasis and others having less. This will show you at a glance your primary points of power.
If you want to be a real star in the workplace, try to develop a strategy to balance the points of power where you work. Some examples:
· You have high knowledge power due to expertise in analysis and are often asked to analyze situations and report your findings in meetings. However, you are weak in personal power and a poor communicator. Your strategy might be to take a presentation skills course or to ask someone to critique a presentation before you give it to the group.
· You have high task power and need to present an idea to the head of your department, but are somewhat weak in relationship power. Your strategy could be to ask a coworker who has the ear of the department head to give you feedback on how he or she thinks the department head will react to your idea.
· You have task power and are working on a very visible project, but you lack position power, which might make it difficult to get support. Your strategy could be to use your task power to solicit a sponsor or champion who will help promote your project and your credibility.
· You have personal power, but are weak in relationship power. Your strategy might be to use your social skills to network. Ask others for instructions, attend meetings of professional organizations, or schedule lunches to help build relationships.
Take advantage of the points of power where you are strong. Use your power in a positive way to do more good for yourself and those around you. If people throughout your organization are enabled to develop their sources of power, it could create a more even playing field for everyone. Power doesn’t have to be concentrated in the hands of a few.