Role of Power

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A CCL Research White Paper

The Role of Power in Effective Leadership
By: Vidula Bal Michael Campbell Judith Steed Kyle Meddings

C E N T E R F O R C R E AT I V E L E A D E R S H I P

The Role of Power in Effective Leadership

CONTENTS Executive Summary Background Power and Leadership Sources of Power The Power of Relationships The Power of Information Understanding the Organization’s Role How Leaders Leverage Power Effectively Reflection Questions Resources References About the Authors 4 5 6 8 12 14 15 17 19 19 19 20

Center for Creative Leadership, CCL®, and its logo are registered trademarks owned by the Center for Creative Leadership. © 2008 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.

The Role of Power in Effective Leadership
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Ideas2Action (I2A) project is a Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) initiative aimed at achieving its goal of “ideas into action.” The purpose of the project is to provide our participants and clients with research that is timely and relevant to current challenges. The research questions are also designed to aid in continuously updating CCL program content and providing knowledge that is compelling to our participant groups. The purpose of this research is to understand how leaders use power, to learn about the situations in which power is exerted and to describe how individuals and organizations can improve their leadership through the effective use of power. The major findings of this research included: 1. Most leaders surveyed (94 percent) rated themselves as being moderately to extremely powerful at work. There is a notable correlation between leaders’ level in the organization and how powerful they believe themselves to be at work. 2. 28 percent of the leaders surveyed agree that power is misused by top leaders in their organization. 3. 59 percent of the leaders surveyed agree that their organization empowers people at all levels. 4. 41 percent of the leaders surveyed indicate that they would feel more powerful at work if they had more formal authority. 5. The top three most frequently leveraged sources of power are: the power of expertise, the power of information and the power of relationships. The power of punishment, or the ability to sanction individuals for failure to conform to standards or expectations, is the least-leveraged source of power. 6. The three sources of power leaders believe will be most important to leverage in the next five years are the power of relationships, the power of information, and the power to reward others. 7. The power of relationships is most often used to promote one’s own personal agenda. 8. Leaders suggest that the power of relationships can be better leveraged by identifying desired relationships, investing in those relationships, and repairing damaged relationships.

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Center for Creative Leadership, CCL®, and its logo are registered trademarks owned by the Center for Creative Leadership. © 2008 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.

The Role of Power in Effective Leadership
BACKGROUND

The concepts of power and leadership have been and will continue to be interconnected. While an individual may exert power without being a leader, an individual cannot be a leader without having power. For this study, the I2A team defined power simply as ‘the potential to influence others.’ This definition helps demystify power and puts into perspective the importance of using power in order to be an effective leader. In organizational settings, leaders must exert power to achieve individual, team, and organizational goals. Leaders must be able to influence their followers to achieve greater performance; their superiors and peers to make important decisions; and stakeholders to ensure the vitality of the organization.

H OW WAS T H E R E S E A RC H CO N D U C T E D?
During a five-month period of 2007, data were collected from participants attending a CCL program via two complementary research...
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