Power in Leadership and Business

Updated on March 29, 2020
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Chris has worked in a business leadership role for the past 10+ years. He likes to share his experiences with others to help them learn.

In the realm of leadership and management, power is the ability to control others, events, and resources. Having power means that you can allocate resources to control events and eventually affect outcomes in a way that you desire. Power can allow you to overcome obstacles, beat competition, and control resistance. Power also directly affects the magnitude and degree of how you can influence others. The rest of this article will explain several sources of power in leadership while also discussing some implications of having power.

Sources of Personal Power

Power in leadership can come from several sources. When most people think of power, they will likely think of a person’s status or position. You would probably agree that the CEO of any business has a lot of power, especially compared to a front line worker. Power can also come from a legal perspective. For example, the President of the United States is granted a lot of power. The President has the legal authority to make certain decisions regardless of how certain people or certain political parties may feel about it. However, it should be important to note that the power is granted to the position and not the person in these cases.

Another place that power can come from is experience and expertise. A person who has attained an expert-level of knowledge in a particular subject may be considered to have significant power in the corresponding industry. A person with power derived from expertise will be able to influence others based on their knowledge or skill set. A top Ph.D. scientist in any given field will wield significant power and influence in their industry. For example, when Warren Buffet gives investment advice, investors tend to listen!

A third-place that power can come from is through the ownership of resources or desirable personality traits. This explains why both wealthy people and celebrities are seen as having power. Celebrities are often held in high regard and society gives them power over things simply based on their status. A celebrity might be wealthy (possessing resources) or maybe a great singer, dancer, etc which people admire. These things can give a person the power to affect marketplaces, industries, and people.

A great example of a person who has this third source of power is Elon Musk. Musk is a wealthy leader in business and is revered by many. When Musk makes a political statement or business proposition, many people take what he says to heart.

The Resource Dependency Principle

One interesting thing about power is that power requires a dependency. For someone to have power it is contingent on someone else needed something from them. If a person has something that you desire, then they could be said to have power over you. Since they control the resource or object that you want, their power is dependent on your desire for that thing. Looking at it another way, if someone has nothing that you desire or need, they will have little, if any, power over you.

A good example of the resource dependency power principle is how Countries with a lot of natural resources can control and influence Countries that have little natural resources. For instance, a lot of products that Americans use every day are made in China. It can be said that China has implicit power over America. China could decide at any time to stop exports or increase prices and there would be little that America could do about it (in the short term). Another example is how America is dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Anything that affects the middle east and/or the oil-producing countries, will end up impacting Americans.

How to Develop your Personal Power

Leadership is often touted as the ability to influence others. If so, then it follows that becoming a leader in any arena is akin to obtaining more power. Therefore, developing your leadership skills would have the resulting effect of increasing the magnitude of the power that you possess. Increasing personal power tends to come with an increase in experience and expertise. As you rack up more years of experience, you will find yourself in more and more positions of responsibility and power.

Here are 10 tips that can use to start developing and growing your personal power today:

  1. Start reading books. More specifically, read at least 30 minutes to an hour a day in your chosen field. In a few years, you will be considered an expert.
  2. Maintain a positive, optimistic outlook. The world's most powerful people tend to have a more optimistic outlook rather than a pessimistic one.
  3. Ask for more responsibility in the workplace. Most bosses will likely never be asked by an employee to give them more responsibility. This is your opportunity to grow and attain more power and influence.
  4. Help others. When you take time to help others, this helps to improve your reputation and to build trust. Trusted leaders tend to have more power than those that are not trustworthy.
  5. Attend seminars and conferences. This a great way to network and make connections with others in your field. Also, you tend to learn valuable things in seminars that may not necessarily be available in books.
  6. Get certified. Obtaining a professional certification or license in any field will certainly give you more power in the workplace.
  7. Go above and beyond. The most successful and powerful people in any field did not get there by accident. Most top people had to work longer and harder than others to get to where they are today.
  8. Become passionately focused on your goals. You must be a goal-oriented individual if you want to experience extraordinary success and the power that comes with it.
  9. Be willing to take risks. Being risk-averse isn't going to help you attain more power. You must be willing to take risks and do things differently than they have been done before if you want to increase your personal power.
  10. Remember what's important to you. It's always wise to keep that which you find important in the back of your head at all times. This will help motivate you, keep you on track, and to keep you focused on your goals.

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    © 2020 Christopher Wanamaker

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