Power and leadership

Power refers to a capacity that A has to influence the behavior of B so that B acts in accordance with A’s wishes. This definition implies a potential that need not be actualized to be effective and a dependency relationship.

Power may exist but not be used. It is, therefore a capacity or potential. One can have power but not impose it. Probably the most important aspect of power is that it is function of dependency. The greater B’s dependence on A, the greater is A’s in the relationship. Dependence, in turn is based on alternatives that B perceives and the importance that B places on the alternative(s) that A controls. A person can have power over you only if he or she controls something you desire. If you want a college degree and have to pass a certain course to get it and your current he or she has power over you. Your alternatives are highly limited and you place a high degree of importance on obtaining a passing grade. Similarly if you’re attending college on funds totally provided by your parents you probably recognize the power that they hold over you. You are dependent on them for financial support. But once you are out of school have a job, and are making a good income, your parents’ power is reduced significantly. Who among us, though has not known or heard of the rich relative who is able to control a large members of family, members merely through the implicit or explicit threat of writing them out of the will?

Contrasting leadership and Power:

A careful comparison of our description of power with our description of leadership reveals that the concepts are closely intertwined. Leaders use power as means of attaining group goal. Leaders achieve goals and power as a means of facilitating their achievements.

What differences are there between the two terms? One difference relates to goal compatibility. Power does not require goal compatibility, merely dependence. Leadership on the other hand, requires some congruence between the goals of the leader and those being pursued. A second difference relates to the direction of influence. Leadership focuses on the downward influence on one’s followers. It minimizes the importance of lateral and upward influence patters. Power does not. Still another difference deals with research emphasis leadership research for the most part, emphasizes style. It seeks answers to questions such as. How supportive should a leader be? How much decision making should be shared with followers? In contrast the research on power has tended to encompass broader area and to focus on tactics for gaining compliance. It has gone beyond the individual as the exerciser of power because power can be used by groups as well as by individuals to control other individuals or groups

Bases of power:

Where does power come from? What is it that gives an individual or a group influence over others. We answer these questions by dividing the bases or sources of power not general groupings formula and personal and then breaking each of these down more specific categories.

Formal Power:

Formal power is based on an individual’s position in an organization. Formal power can come from the ability to coerce or reward, or from formal authority.

Coercive Power: The coercive base is dependent on fear. One reacts to this power out of fear of the negative results that might occur if one failed to comply. It rests on the application, or the threat of application, of physical sanctions such as the infliction of pain, the generation of frustration though restriction of movement, or the controlling by force of basic physiological or safety needs.

At the organizational level, A has coercive power over B if A can dismiss, suspend or demote B, assuming that B values his or her job. Similarly, if A can assign B work activities that B finds unpleasant or treat B in a manner that B finds embarrassing. A possesses coercive power over B. Coercive power also a come from withholding key information. People in an organization who have data or knowledge than others can make those others dependent on them. —