Power can be transformative and yet destructive depending on how it is handled. Take Adolf Hitler for example, he used power to control and abuse the lives of innocent human beings – not the type of power you want to see. Then there’s Abraham Lincoln who used his power to bring integrity, respect and honor back to the lives of many who were living as slaves – an honorable achievement.
Power that is used for good is respectable, especially in the workplace. What type of power do you have and did you even know you possessed this trait?
Perceptions of power at work indicate tensions around its distribution. Results from a Center for Creative Leadership research study show a notable correlation between how powerful a leader believes he or she is and that leader’s level in the organization. This trend seems to be consistent with most people’s idea of power – the control high-level leaders exert from their positions in the organizational hierarchy. What people are missing is that power extends far beyond the spacious corner office with a nice view, in fact; leaders at all levels have access to power. What’s important is understanding the many types of power and how to handle them.
Leveraging power at all levels
Do you feel you have power, especially at work? The truth is you do. Power isn’t just for owners and managers; employees have power too. Just think about where power comes from and you will find yours.
Here are seven types of power shaping the workforce today:
- Power of whom you know – How strong is your network? Are you connected? Some people are great networkers and maybe that’s you. This power grows exponentially – the more people you know, the more people will want to know you.
“It’s all about who you know.” This is a popular saying in business, and it’s true. There is some sort of automatic power you gain from knowing people. In business, a connection could be the difference between a paycheck and unemployment.
- Power of what you know – The one “token” person in the room who has an answer for everything. Is that you? These people are very powerful because they hold all the answers to problems people need fixed.
- Power of love – Do people do things for you simply because they like you? Your power comes from your charismatic personality – an innate trait you didn’t have to do anything to obtain –that draws people to you. Your power is infectious.
- Power of admiration – Unlike charisma, admiration is earned. By being responsible, organized, reliable, consistent and a team-player, you build trust with others. If people trust you they will listen to you and care what you have to say… now that’s power.
- Power of fear – If you’re in a position to punish, then you have power, but not the good kind of power. This power has been known to come back to haunt people, so sleep with one eye open.
Robin Sharma, a trusted leadership advisor said it best, “Fear ruins more bright lives than you might imagine.” We all have the potential to “lead without title” and achieve great things. If you had the chance to elevate everyone around you, wouldn’t you want to capitalize on that?
- Possession-based power – You’ve got it and they want it. Technically, that’s power, but what happens when you no longer have what they want? This type of power may be hard to manage.
In such a competitive market, everyone is striving to have some sort of possession-based power. Every organization wants to be the go-to in their industry. Innovation is key. In order to be the industry front-runner, you have to be one step ahead of the rest.
- Power by position – You’re the boss, the obvious source of power. Remember, a bad boss can quickly lose respect, influence and control so be a good leader worthy of the power you hold.
Amit Kleinberger, CEO of Menchie’s, a popular frozen yogurt franchise, goes undercover on CBS’s popular hit show Undercover Boss. He exemplifies a true leader, taking moments to investigate how to improve his business and empower his employees. He doesn’t take his power for granted but sees it as an opportunity to impact others and in-turn his business.
So, maybe you’re not the CEO at the company, but you have power nonetheless and with that power you can help excel organizational performance (if you use it for good that is) – that is invaluable.