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The past two weeks we looked at insights related to power that managers can make use of while intending to influence the behaviour of others. We distinguished position power and personal power. Position power was further classified into reward power and coercive power, using rewards and punishment as tools to influence the workers. Legitimate power was the third form of position power and refers to the formal authority the manager has. Personal power was divided into expert power and referent power. Expert power is derived from the extent to which somebody is knowledgeable or experienced in a certain area, while referent power relates to the extent to which workers identify with the manager.
Managers can use power to influence the behaviour of subordinates, but often, power can be exercised to influence superiors and also people in lateral relations like peers and outsiders. When facing upward, managers must rely on the use of personal power (expertise and reference) to achieve influence over higher level superiors. In contrast, when facing downward, both position and personal power can be mobilized in dealing with subordinates. In lateral relations with peers and outsiders, the manager must again emphasize personal power to achieve the desired influence.
We concluded that the effective manager is one who succeeds in building and maintaining high levels of both position and personal power over time. Only then will sufficient power of the right types be available when the manager needs to exercise influence over subordinates, superiors and lateral relations.
This week we will look into ways to enhance position and personal power and thus contribute to achieving organizational goals and results. Achieving organizational goals and results should be the objective of all managers and managers are put in their position for this purpose. The challenge is to do this effectively and thus use the power derived from this position in a way that indeed positively influences the work of employees but also to use knowledge and skills to convince superiors and others how best to go about issues that are important for the company.
First, we will look into how position power can be applied most effectively. Remember that position power was based on formal authority and legitimacy of the manager’s location in the structure of the organization. Position power can be enhanced when managers are able to demonstrate to others that their work units or departments are highly relevant to the organization’s goals and are able to respond to urgent organizational needs. Here follows five general guidelines for managers to enhance their position power:
Position yourself strategically in the work flow, having information passing through you, expanding your communication network. Your office should be placed conveniently to main traffic flows.
Get rid of routine activities. Instead, initiate new ideas, get involved in new projects, participate in early stages of strategic decision making. This includes delegation and staying away from micro management.
Develop yourself, obtain advanced training, become more involved in professional associations and exercise your own judgement.
Become more visible by expanding your contacts with senior people, making presentations; participate in problem solving task forces.
Become more relevant to the entire organization by providing services and information to other departments, carry out monitoring and evaluation activities in your own department, coach and mentor others and become involved in decisions central to the top priority goals of the organization.
Personal power arises from personal characteristics of the manager rather than from the location and other characteristics of the position in the organization. Two primary bases of personal power are expertise and reference. In addition, three personal characteristics may enhance personal power in the organization:
Knowledge and information. Personal power can be enhanced by the expertise gained by possession of special knowledge (through education, training and experience) and information (through access to data and/or people).
A manager’s reference power will be increased by characteristics, which enhance his or her likeability and potential to build personal relationships. These include pleasant personality, agreeable behaviour and personal appearance.
Effort. Demonstrating sincere hard work to achieve organizational results can also increase personal power by enhancing both expertise and reference. Somebody who is seen to work hard will be expected to know more about the job and thus be sought out for advice. Also, a person who tries hard is likely to be respected for it and may even become depended on by others to maintain that effort.
In conclusion, power flows from consistent high performance.
Next week we will look into how power can be turned into influence and how empowering others can help in increasing the total power available in the organization and thus enhance the organization’s effectiveness in achieving its goals.
Source: Managing Organizational Behavior, by Schermerhorn, Hunt and Osborn