Leadership: Bases of Power

Topics: Authority, Problem solving, Power Pages: 7 (2639 words) Published: February 28, 2013
In a Nutshell 
Who would want to work for a weak manager?  Managers need power to do their jobs, because their jobs require them to influence others.  Consequently, managers who feel powerless to influence others experience a tremendous amount of frustration and stress.  Their staff members tend to feel frustrated too.  Power means many different things to different people. For some, power is seen as corrupt. For others, the more power they have, the more successful they feel. For even others, power is of no interest at all. 

Positions of authority confer power to the people who hold managerial positions. However, managers who rely solely on their formal authority to influence others will find that it doesn't inspire their staff, and can even demoralize them.  Hence, it helps to also derive power from other sources.  Charisma and having personal appeal are sources of power too.  Power can also be developed by becoming and expert or by performing critical role for the firm. Bases of Social Power 

Bases of power refer to the methods that managers and leaders utilize to influence their employees. When examining bases of power, the concept of authority must also be considered. These two are interconnected attributes tied to the behavior of superiors over subordinates. In their article, "Are There No Limits To Authority?", David Knights and Darren McCabe explain that "power should be understood to be a condition of social relations. Thus, it is erroneous to ask who has power. Instead, it is necessary to explore how power is exercised." In turn, the nature of how power is exercised is a workable definition for authority. In short, authority and power are intertwined, with power being the ability to do things or have others do what one has ordered while authority is the foundation on which that power is built. The bases of social power are very diverse, and no list is ever complete. Nonetheless, the commonly identified bases of power fit pretty well into two categories; position-related factors and personal factors. 

Position-related factors.  Position power comes from the legitimacy inherent in many positions, the ability to provide rewards, the ability to coerce, access to valuable information and performing a critical function. These position-related factors are: Legitimate power allows leaders to motivate others simply because they hold the leadership position.  Sometimes we comply with the wishes of a leader just because of the societal expectations for us to do so.  For instance, if Colin Powell shows up at your club's luncheon and wants to say a few words, you let him.  Why do you give him that privilege?  Stupid question.  He's the Secretary of State!  You just do that sort of thing for someone in his position.  That's legitimate power.  That kind of legitimacy isn't always very strong for managers who are promoted to a position in which they must supervise their former peers.  If the former peers have any difficulty adjusting to their managers' new positions, legitimacy will be kind of weak.  Legitimate power comes from having a position of power in an organization, such as being the boss or a key member of a leadership team. This power comes when employees in the organization recognize the authority of the individual. For example, the CEO who determines the overall direction of the company and the resource needs of the company. Legitimate power rests in the belief among employees that their manager has the right to give orders based on his or her position. For example, at the scene of a crime, people usually comply with the orders of a uniformed police officer based simply on their shared belief that he or she has the predetermined authority to give such orders. In a corporate setting, employees comply with the orders of a manager who relies on legitimate power based on the position in the organizational hierarchy that the manager holds. Yet, although employees may comply based on legitimate power,...

References: Victor, D. (n.d.). Leadership Styles and Bases of Power. Retrieved February 25,2013, from: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Int-Loc/Leadership-Styles-and-Bases-of-Power.html#ixzz2Lt2Q7QbI
Abudi, G. (2011). The 5 Types of Power in Leadership. Retrieved February,from: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/08/26/the-5-types-of-power-in-leadership/
Wiliams, S. (2004). Building Your Power Bases. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from: http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/power.htm
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