Sunday, July 22, 2007

Enlightened Power

In the book I'm currently reading, Enlightened Power: How Women are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, there's a chapter specifically called "Influencing for Impact." It looks at the term power and what it means - but more so how influence is directly synonymous with the term power.

The author points out that one important step in developing your influence skills is to identify where your own power resides. She points out that acknowledging and analyzing the bases of power that we possess does not always come easily to women. Women can tend to downplay their strengths and have a hard time with the word power.

Power comes from many sources - knowledge and expertise, financial resources, position/title, and certainly relationships you have. The different types of power are outlined below:

The 5 Bases of Power

* Resource Power - having control or access to needed resources or rewards. Resources could be funding, materials, critical information, or assistance. Tricky part with this power is that it can easily shift or change, resources can be taken away (ex: budget cut).

* Position Power - this is your title or rank within the organization. This represents where you are on the totem poll. While people may have to comply with you, it doesn't mean they are committed to you.

* Coercive Power - based on threats and manipulation. This power rests on positional power. Threats may get you what you want, but you will most likely also inspire resistance and hostility at the same time.

* Expert Power - information, knowledge, and subject matter expertise. This can sometimes be where women sell themselves short. Research shows they may downplay their expertise to avoid looking like they are egotistical. Often attributing their success to "luck" rather than hard work. (Important point. Recognize the power of decisions you've made, and the hard work you've put in. Don't pass it off as luck).

* Relational Power - basis in who you know and the quality of those relationships both internal and external to the organization. This base of power is built upon trust and length of history with the relationship. This tends to be the key to most leaders' success. (Key: if you can't build trust w/ folks, you cannot have much influence over them).

Of course communicating our ideas, expertise, or needs is the next biggest determinant of whether or not we have the ability to influence others. But that's a subject we'll save for next time.

Until then, learn and lead.

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