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Power

 

Explanations > Theories > Power

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Power is the ability to get others to change their behavior even if they do not wish to do so.

There are five bases of power defined by French and Raven (1960):

  • Reward power: control over valued resources.
  • Coercive power: ability to inflict punishment, possibly physical.
  • Expert power: superior knowledge.
  • Legitimate power: formal rank or position.
  • Referent power: when people want to be like you.

Power is much written about and other typologies include:

  • Jeffery Pfeffer: Personal attributes, organization structure and the fit between situational requirements and personal traits
  • Charles Handy: Power resources (physical, financial, position, expert, personal), methods of influence (force, rules/procedures, exchange, persuasion, ecology, magnetism)
  • Henry Mintzberg: Resources, technical skill, knowledge, formal power and access to others

Simplifying, power comes from:

  • Being able to do something that the other person does not want.
  • Having something that the other person wants (or at least controlling access to it).
  • Being able to change the beliefs or understanding of the other person ( through rational logic or irrational charisma). 

Example

I have all forms of  power over my children. They have reward power over me, by withholding their affections.

So what?

Using it

Understand your situation of power. Seek to build it over time. Use it sparingly: abuse of power often has unintended negative effects, such as reactance.

Defending

Recognize the power that you always have. At minimum you always have power over your own actions, as workers have known for centuries.

See also

Coercion, Least Interest Principle, Reactance Theory, Persuasion

, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1650/htmlpower.html, http://cbae.nmsu.edu/~dboje/teaching/338/power_and_leadership.htm, http://www.westga.edu/~sclimate/powertypology.htm,

 

References

French and Raven (1960), Pfeffer (1992), Mintzberg (1983)

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