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Leadership Skills #7 - Using power to communicate vision

Part 7/10

Using power to communicate vision

Power and influence are important aspects of communication. Effective leaders derive much of their 'power' from their abilities to influence others positively and motivate them to achieve. If you aspire to be a person who others follow, it is essential to learn how to use the most appropriate kinds of power to influence and persuade.

Power comes in many forms. Some of the most common forms are;

  • Coercive
  • Reward
  • Legitimate
  • Expert
  • Referent

Not all forms of power are conducive to good leadership, because not all foster commitment, and some may actually foster resentment. Consider the following examples;

Jack's line manager, Phillip, uses coercive power when she says: "if you don't agree to take on extra duties, your lack of cooperation could have a negative effect on your next promotion."

Ken's coworker, Igor, uses reward power when he says: "I'll award you a bonus if you take on more duties."

Phil is Shami's line manager. He uses legitimate power when he says to Shami: "I'd like you to compile an extra sales report as one of your duties."

Keith's colleagues often do what he advises because they recognise that he is an expert in his field, and they can learn a lot from him.

The people in Guy's team enjoy working with him and for him. He is kind, fair, honest and he managed to make working in high-stress environment fun. This is referent power.

 Some forms of power are less potent and reliable than others. For example, people who are coerced into cooperating are less likely to be committed and are more likely to look for ways to resist. Similarly, those who are rewarded for collaboration may withdraw cooperation when the incentive ends. Legitimate power only works in situations where one person holds a higher position in the organisation than the other.

Good leaders don't use coercive means to influence others; they use their personal qualities and abilities to gain cooperation. They don't rely on the legitimate power of authority because they may not have it. Neither do they depend on the power of giving rewards and incentives. Firstly, this may not be an option, and secondly, its strength completely depends on what you have to offer. There's always the risk that it wont be good enough.

But you can always rely on expert and referent power, whatever the circumstances. These forms of power depend on you, not your position or access to resources.

When you lead others, it is better to build and use expert and referent power by communicating the positive traits such as honesty, fairness, consistency, knowledge and expertise.

You can demonstrate these qualities by speaking assertively and knowledgeably.

  • DO give your opinions with confidence
  • DO speak assertively by saying: "in my opinion, this is the best option"
  • DON'T communicate passively by saying "i could be wrong, but this is what i would choose"
  • DO take responsibility for your feelings. Avoid blaming others for your emotions and reactions.
  • DO  speak assertively by saying: "I'm really disappointed"
  • DON'T  communicate aggressively by saying "you've really upset me"
  • DO state the facts and not your judgement of the facts
  • DO speak assertively by saying: "based on what i know, i don't agree"
  • DON'T communicate aggressively by saying: "you obviously don't understand, or you wouldn't disagree"
  • DO ask for what you require, don't hint
  • DO  ask assertively by saying: "I'd like you to be there"
  • DON'T ask passively by saying: "it would be good if you could be there"

Often what you ask of others requires that their total commitment, so you need them to "buy in" to your opinion. This is easier for them to do if they are confident in your abilities and trust and respect you as a person.

You can use expert and referent power to influence anyone - colleagues,  peers, subordinates, and even those above you in the hierarchy. You don't have to be their boss. Your power to lead comes from what you know and who you are and not what you can give or take away from your staff.

You may have all kinds of power at your disposal, but power built on expertise, personality, and character gives you influence at all levels and in a multitude of situations.

have you read the assignment technique module?

1. Pick 3 of the power forms and answer the following questions.

    a) Outline the advantages and disadvantages of each of your chosen power forms (6)

    b) Identify one power type that you consider to be the best and Explain how this could be used by a line manager. Use examples (10)