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Power Plays: How to Use Your Power Wisely

| January 13, 2009

by Jim Bruce

Power is a subject that is not often discussed in public.  Yet, an individual cannot be a leader without having power, “the potential to influence others.”  In this week’s Tuesday Reading, “Power Plays:  How to Use Your Power Wisely” from the December 2008 Issue of the Center for Creative Leadership’s Newsletter Leading Effectively, outlines nine strategies for levering your power more effectively:

1.  Make relationships a priority.  To improve relational power you need to:

   – invest time and energy in existing relationships, spending more time with others.

   – identify specific individuals with whom to build relationships.

   – repair damaged or neglected relationships, focusing in particular on creating more trust and repairing your image if damaged.

2.  Don’t overplay your personal agenda.  Don’t be seen to be self-serving or not a team player or deceitful.

3.  Maximize your communication network.  Expand your network to include people who represent untapped sources of information.

4.  Be generous with information by:

   – playing the role of a central node for information you then convey to others.  Doing this effectively, you create a reputation for being the one to come to for the best/most complete information.

   – informing others, providing data analysis to information a decision, providing options.

   – influencing others by proposing a solution or backing up an idea.

5.  Be the expert.  Be forthright with your experience and expertise.

6.  Tailor your power to reward others.  Try to give your team members what they would find rewarding.

7.  Reward with words.  Research shows that you need to average four positive feedback comments to every negative one for for a team member to believe that your feedback is fair.  So, remember to acknowledge the good stuff.  (For a spouse or significant other, it’s five to one.

8.  Punish with purpose.  Be explicit about the consequences for behavior or results that don’t meet expectations and consistently follow through.

9.  Teach others.  Teach your team members how to use the power that they have available to them.

In the paper from which the newsletter summary was drawn, the authors report that the three most frequently leveraged sources of power are the power of expertise, the power of information, and the power of relationships.  Their research indicates that within five years, the most important way to leverage power will be relationships.  (This paper can be downloaded from a link at the end of the reading.)


.  .  .  .  .   jim