The ability to influence strategically and effectively is vital for leaders in business today. Influence with others generally flows from one of the five bases of power identified by John French and Bertram Raven in 1959. Looking at these in a bit more detail:

1. Legitimate power exists through social hierarchies, cultural norms, and organizational structures, and can be effective in these contexts. However, if you lose the position you lose the power. A leader needs more than legitimate power; in fact, a leader may not need this at all!

2. People in positions are often able to give out rewards, and reward power can be effective when others value what is offered. When used frequently, however, rewards often lose their effectiveness. Similarly, coercive power(ability to punish or reward) can be subject to abuse, causing unhealthy behaviour and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

3. When you are able to understand a situation, suggest solutions, use solid judgment, and generally outperform others you demonstrate expert power, and as a result people tend to trust you and respect what you say. This can be one of the best ways to improve your influence skills.

4. Referent power comes from one person liking and respecting another, this may be thought of as charisma, charm, admiration, or appeal. This can be an effective form of influence; but can be abused quite easily. Someone who is likable, but lacks integrity and honesty, may use that power to gain personal advantage. However, referent power that comes from respect for character, values and integrity (which some term personal power) is a foundation of solid and lasting influence.

Under pressure (and who doesn’t have some of this) leaders may tend to utilise the less effective power bases to just ‘get the job done’. These are the legitimate, reward and coercive power. Lasting authentic influence is generally built on a blend of expert and personal power, and these are power bases given to the leader by people themselves.

What could you do differently to enhance expert and personal power with those in your team? With managers and peers?

Graham

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