Leadership and power are closely linked but they are not synonymous. People tend to follow those who are powerful. But leaders have and use power for different reasons. Some are powerful because they alone have the ability to give a bonus or a raise. Others are powerful because they can fire someone, or assign undesirable tasks. While leaders of this type have formal, official power, their teams are unlikely to be enthusiastic about their approach to leadership.
Leaders may have power because they’re experts in their fields, or because their team members admire them. People with these types of power may not have formal leadership roles, but they influence others effectively because of their skills and personal qualities. And when a leadership position opens up, they are commonly considered for promotion.
The original typology of power was developed by French and Raven (1959) and included the first five forms of power below. Information power was first described by Raven and Kruglanski (1975). Connection power was described by Hersey and Goldsmith (1980). Moral power was described by Sergiovanni and Starratt (1998).
Story that Illustrates Types of Power
This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States’ Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
Questions to Consider
- Do you recognize the types of power used by those around you?
- Do they use their power appropriately?
- How does power influence the way you work and live your life?
- When you feel powerless or overly influenced, what you can do to regain your own power and control.
Quote to Remember
“Power is like being a lady…if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher
Anyone is capable of holding power and influencing others: you don’t need to have an important job title, big office or Captain a Naval vessel. If you recognize the different forms of power and avoid being influenced by those who use power ineffectively, you’ll become an influential and positive leader. To develop your leadership abilities, learn how to use the right form of power at the right time so you can have a positive influence on your colleagues, your team, and your organization.
Note: The Lighthouse Naval story sounds official but some think it’s an urban legend. For a history of the origins of this story read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighthouse_and_naval_vessel_urban_legend