How does one learn to use Power effectively?
This essay focuses on the ways to learn the effective use of power. The essay discusses various forms of power and the methods to use them effectively. The behavioral aspects of a person with authority are also covered in the matter so as to understand how one uses those behaviors to make maximum use of the authority bestowed upon oneself.
Learning to use power effectively is an intricate skill and must be accomplished well for optimum utilization of the assigned power.
Power is the measure of a person’s ability to control the external environment, including the behaviour of other people. The word ‘Power’ is derived from the French word ‘poeir’ which means ‘to be able to act’. The relational and reciprocal expression of power is concerned with discovering and describing the relative strengths. Power ranges from being ethical, purposeful, evil, manipulative, and corrupt. However, when used in an ethical and purposeful way, the positive face of power acquisition spans across power-base development and power use. It is the way of using power that defines the strength of power.
The figure above demonstrates the levels of power that must be understood to use it appropriately. The weakest form of power is decision making. A stronger form is setting an agenda, and the strongest form of power is the control over the environment in one’s sphere of influence (teamtechnology, 2008).
Power is a major ingredient and is the first step needed for the foundation of influence. The ability to influence starts with a choice to be powerful. Practical experience of learning suggests the choice to be powerful is supported by refined execution of power tools accompanied by strategic application of conceptual models (Edbatista, 2008). Using power process effectively allows one to understand what needs to be accomplished and how to accomplish it. The first step of learning to use power effectively is defined by understanding what needs to be done to get people to perform.
“Lifelong learning is a fundamental requirement” (Higgins and Kreischer, 2005). The knowledge about the use of designated power is a much needed skill required by anybody who owns it.
Higgins and Kreischer, describe the importance of the effective use of power by stating that:
Ultimately, leaders who learn to use power tools in a balanced and productive way will be significantly better at guiding their organisations to create value – and sustain it for competitive advantage (2005).
Personal power is identified as another great from of power and a magical inspirational tool. This power deals with the behavioural and the emotional element that is governed by the use of knowledge, emotion and intelligence to create a culture of mutual respect, where people invest in each others objectives. The influence of personal power is believed to be directly proportional to the attributes like integrity, trustworthiness, and commitment. ‘Influence’ is the use of power to achieve the desired effect.
The initial step towards learning the effective use of power is to understand the type of power being refered to. According to Rita Mulcahy (2005), Power is categorised into various forms based on the use and perspectives. This segregation of power into various types is based on degree of authority and is good way for the learner to identify the category of power that needs to be used in a particular situation.
The first type of power is termed as ‘Formal Power’ and is based on one’s position in the hierarchical structure. This power is characterised by the role being played by an entity, thus giving him / her, the authority demanded by the position.
The second type of power is the ‘Reward Power’. This kind of power can be used by understanding the wants and requirements of the subordinate and using the authority to fulfil these types of requirements upon delivery of desired results.
The third type of power is the ‘Penalty Power’ and is used to get the work done by using the authority to penalize people when they do not perform.
The fourth class of power is the ‘Expert Power’ is linked to the technical or professional expertise that lends you the right to get the work done by others because you excel in a particular field.
The ‘Referent Power’ is classified as the fifth type of power and relates to the clout of getting work done by referring to the authority of someone in a higher position.
Power is always relational and must be used that way. The ‘Relation Rose’ or the ‘Rose of Axes’, describes power as an important leadership element. The figure below illustrates that, in order to use power effectively; certain behaviours must be learnt and demonstrated well (2005).
The figure demonstrates three zones of interaction namely, cooperation, conflict and no contact among the various axes. The axis of giving, keeping and confronting is mostly where a leader needs to move. A person who uses power effectively knows how to give by empowering subordinates; he learns how to keep the authority with self and also understands how to confront situations to resolve issues. The lesson of effective use of power commences with a prerequisite understanding of this behavioural approach.
Michelson comments on the use of power, both personal and positional, as the basic need for leadership.
It can be concluded that designing the strategies to be adopted followed by an assessment of the possible outcomes of those strategies, form crucial stages of the learning process and one must perform these in order to successfully learn the effective use of power.
Higgins, Cathy.A., Kreischer, David.J. The Straight Talk Coach: Insights for leading from Strength, Empower, Align and Inspire: Using Power tools effectively (2005). Volume 3. Issue 4. Higgins Kreischer & Associates LIC. 19 October 08.<http://www.srosenstein.com/pdf/hkv3i4.pdf>.
Mulcahy, Rita.PMP Exam Prep, Accelerated Learning to Pass PMI’s PMP Exam. Pg 282.2005.RMC Publication.
Pair Coaching: The Rose of Axes. 11 February 2008. 19 October 2008.< http://paircoaching.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!6FC33EC6E902A219!129.entry>
Michelson, Barton.J. Leadership and Power Base Development: Using Power Effectively to manage Diversity and Job-Related Interdependence in Complex Organisations. 20 October 2008< http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/au-24/michelson.pdf >