Today, many managers tend to operate like gorillas in power. People in organizations tend to follow the person in power, not necessarily the best thinkers. This is called the Alpha Principle. In fact, many bosses ignore very good ideas by workers because they are in control. Bad managers often treat people poorly.
Many workers become disenfranchised or demoralized because their organization will not listen. This article examines how rank-and-file employees can lead in their organizations when they lack title and authority.
Levels of Power
There are a variety of ways to influence decision making in contemporary organizations. Leadership is a combination of power and influence. Leadership can be defined as the ability to influence, guide, and direct others. Leaders get people to do things they wouldn’t normally do alone. Power is a key component of leadership. Power is the ability of a person in an organization to influence others to accomplish a desired outcome. In most organizations power often evolves into the domination of others.
There are five interpersonal bases of power: legitimate power, reward, coercive, referent, and expert power. In legitimate power, a person’s ability to influence others comes simply by being in a certain position. Coercive and reward power are based on the same premise; it is a person’s ability to reward or punish the behavior of others. These sources of power are often used to support the use of legitimate power. Therefore, if you are not in a position to apply coercive or reward power, gaining influence in a contemporary organization may prove to be too difficult. The above items are considered organizational power.
When individuals do not have title in an organization, they should be strategic in gaining more influence in the organization. The two major factors here are referent and expert power. Expert power is the power to influence others based on special expertise. Referent power is based on a person’s charisma due to the personality or style of behavior. James Gibson, John Ivancevich, James Donelly, Jr., and Robert Konopaske, author of Organizations, maintain that the strength of a person’s charisma is an indication of a person’s referent power. People will at least listen to you because they instinctively trust you as a leader. Yet, this power is personality driven. Unfortunately, not everyone has that type of a magnetic personality.
Workers should build their expert power since they control its development.
Even when an individual may have low rank in an organization, expert power makes the individual invaluable. Expert power can relate to administrative, technical, or other personal attributes. It goes to the Law of Scarcity. Therefore, the most difficult a person is to replace, the greater the individual’s power in the organization.
Individuals can gain this power in several ways. First, a person can learn about the organization’s needs or deficiencies and seek to fill this knowledge gap. For example, a small consulting firm may lack the skills to promote itself. An employee with this ability could provide this additional service to this organization. Thus, the employee gains power.
Second, employees can take additional training and obtain special certifications which can assist the organization in achieving its mission. Third, individuals can become an authority in an area and become a hot commodity. In fact, a person who can train, teach, lecture, and write on a particular subject can gain influence in his or her organization as well as outside of the organization.
Finally, gaining expert power may not propel you into the next manager level. However, it will give a worker great influence in his or her organization as well as the community. Therefore, a person’s influence becomes mobile and makes him or her more competitive in the marketplace.
As businesses fight to stay alive in the changing marketplace, there is an increasing need for effective leaders. Gaining influence becomes a premium for emerging leaders. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends Influence and Influence People, argued the importance of influencing others: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
The article demonstrated that there are a variety of power types in most organizations. Unfortunately, some manager’s do not want to share decision making with their staff. Learning how to influence others is critical in a global environment. Individuals do not have to be the boss in order to possess power in the organization. However, not everyone has a leadership persona. Some can gain referent power, derived from personal characteristics that employees admire. Others can wield expert power if they occupy a vital niche in the organization. In general, empowerment increases employee morale and will prove the merits of satisfied employees on the bottom line. Workers can take control of their lives. Let us pray it won’t be too late.
© 2011 by Daryl D. Green
About the Columnist:
Dr. Daryl Green provides motivation, guidance, and training for leaders at critical ages and stages of their development. He has over 20 years of management experience and has been noted and quoted by USA Today, Ebony Magazine, and Associated Press. Formore information, you can go to http://stores.lulu.com/darygre or http://www.darylgreen.org.