Gaining Power and Influence the Subtle Way
Power, whatever it academically means, usually has a negative connotation, but power is actually good. Power has to be used responsibly for it to be good. Good managers are those who use power for the company’s advancement rather than for personal purposes (Putting Power). If power is used to be productive in a workplace, then it can be considered an asset. What is important in this field is the person’s intention in using his power. In the first place, if one’s intention were good then, why would we call it evil?
Power, authority and influence are not the same; however, these terms are related. Influence is the ability to persuade other people to do what you want them to do or to give in to what you believe in. Power, on the other hand, is the skill of changing the behavior of a person or a group of persons, specially, if the behavior would not have taken place (Ratzburg). In connection, authority is something given to a person by an organization which gives the individual the right to influence the department in his care (Putting Power).
The question then arises, what can we do to gain power and influence? Obviously, the first step is to find a job we enjoy doing and that we are excellent in doing. Then, we should set a specific goal to help us along the way. We can practice influence by persuasion and controlling the agenda, where we can have the upper hand though we still are in no authority to do so (Power and Organizations). To be influential we should keep three factors in mind: credibility, words to use, and the emotions of our subordinates (Phin). One also needed to be consistent and firm to be considered credible. Thus, it pays to be firm on rules and regulations but friendly in dealing and communicating with one’s subordinates.
In the workplace, try to exert power by being open-minded to everyone’s suggestions and comments. Being the one having the power does not mean commanding. One should focus on supervision rather than tyranny. A manager should monitor each subordinate regularly to improve his performance. Additionally, people tend to like persons who make them feel good about themselves (Phin). Thus, among the different classifications of power, I would rather exercise referent and rewards power. Combining the two, one can think of many ways to gain power. However, the first step is to be an honorable and respectable man to have referent power. Find a way to be a model for everyone to look up to and so, gain their respect. After which, one has to try to be polite to his subordinates so as to practice power by being gracious in giving praises and scarce in voicing out complaints and criticisms. By doing so, subordinates will seek to hear praises which will be very helpful rather than evading criticisms. If one made a mistake in front of the workers, admit it and apologize instead of denying it especially if the mistake done is obvious.
Nevertheless, never commit a mistake again since this can damage your credibility. Moreover, a powerful man has to respect his subordinates. This can be effectively done by acknowledging their strengths and relying on these strengths, making them feel that they are indispensible. For example, the department I work on can be likened to ship. Explaining to the staff that every part of the ship, from the very small screw to the large mast has equal importance and without them the ship will not sail, will surely empower them. I would not consent to the kind of power wherein the one controlling the relationship is blackmailing the other. This is a very unhealthy and dangerous play of power and influence. I would rather not have power than engage in such a relationship.
To acquire power, one has to do extraordinary, visible and relevant activities (Putting Power). If all these things were done, you would surely gain power in no time. An effective leader should always have presence of mind in the workplace. Meaning, be aware of everything that’s happening in the company, not only the events in your department but with the other departments as well. Also, try to be an expert of the company by looking at your company from an outsider’s view. Through this endeavor, one will see the weaknesses of the company, which can be improved and worked out. Regarding gender and race issues, a department head should always practice equality and justice. One should not take sides and examine the matter at hand objectively and logically.
Nowadays, the role of a manager in the workplace is becoming more of a coach rather than a dictator. The manager is the driver rather than the commander, in a sense that he oversees everything in his workplace instead of barking out orders that everyone has to comply without resistance.
“Chapter 16: Power and Organizations”. 18 April 2008.
Phin, D.A. “A Book Summary/Review: The Power of Influence by Paul McKenna and Michael Breen.” Donphin.com. 18 April 2008. <http://www.bizsum.com/articles/art_the-power-of-influence.php>
“Putting Power to Work.” 18 April 2008.
Ratzburg, Wilf. “Power Defined.” OB Notes. 18 April 2008.