Power often conjures up negative thoughts and associations. When used appropriately, it has the ability to positively effect change. Power is the potential you have to get things done or make things happen. Itís often the case that in the workplace we can feel powerless; however, itís also likely that you are more powerful than you think. If youíre unsure about your power, unskilled or uncomfortable in using it, then you may hinder your effectiveness and therefore restrict the amount of influence you have.
Sources of power
Your power ó your potential ó comes from many sources, for example, your expertise, experience, position in your organization, personality, connections with others and access to information. Some of these power sources are personal and some are positional and many are a combination of the two.
Personal power is internal ó itís about how you behave, how you use your interpersonal skills and abilities. Personal power can be defined by the degree to which people feel good about you, how much they trust and respect you, the relationship they have with you (positive or negative?). Personal power is earned. A positive reputation follows, regardless of your position or status.
Positional power is derived from an external source, such as a job title or function. It is allocated or delegated to you in an organization. Positional power is finite and limited, as in you donít always have authority, or status. When used negatively, it can weaken relationships, break trust and result in conflict. When used positively it can help you meet your objectives, gain co-operation from others and build constructive relationships.
Important to note
ē Positional power is neither positive nor negative. It depends on how you use it.
ē Itís the perception others hold about your power that gives you the ability to influence. You may have lots of potential to influence others but if others donít recognize or accept it, then your effectiveness will be limited.
ē None of the sources of power have any value unless you use them.
ē Deciding how to influence a situation (i.e. whether to use your personal or positional power, or both), requires you to balance meeting your objectives with maintaining productive relationships.
To be in as much control as possible over the outcomes or results you want to achieve, you need to develop confidence in your personal power. Influencing using your personal power (your interpersonal skills) will enable you to implement any other source of power. If you have low positional power in your organization, remember that you can always expand your influence by exercising your personal power.
Hazel Morley is principal of Think Smart: Training and Coaching with Change in Mind. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.