often I’ve heard mid-level managers and individual contributors bemoan
their lack of authority or power to get things done in their
organizations. This complaint, of course, is not limited to “line”
employees who carry out the driving missions of their companies, but
also to legions of support staff from the folks in Tech Services to the
internal HR representative.
you think about typical organizational structure and the hierarchical
nature in which most companies operate, none of this is terribly
surprising. The “boss” has the power, by definition, to hire, define
assignments or working conditions, reward, punish, fire, etc. This is
the traditional definition of organizational power. The ones at the top
of the pyramid roll stuff down for the folks at the bottom to deal with.
we’re fortunate and the people at the top who wield the organizational
power are also fine leaders. They involve and inspire the people in the
ranks and everyone accomplishes amazing things. This is the ideal
combination of organizational power and personal power; individuals who
have authority also earn followers’ allegiance through their ability to
find the keys to individual and group leadership.
important to recognize the sources from which power comes. The source
of organizational power is pretty straightforward – it’s the traditional
hierarchy upon which the vast majority of organizations are built. The
source of personal power is a little less obvious, and it relies more on
an individual’s ability to influence both people and process in subtle
and effective ways. Organizational power is given from above. Personal
power can be earned from any direction – above, below, and parallel.
greatest news about personal power is that anyone can use it, and when
applied with integrity, it tends to grow. The skills that contribute to
building personal power are primarily relationship and communication
skills. How does one, for example, earn the right to readily share an
opinion? By listening to those of others! Building relationships is the
first step in elevating your ability to influence. The use of power or
influence to advance one’s ideas in positive ways also means building
relationships vertically and horizontally in the organization.
the trust of those who hold organizational power means that they need
to know who you are and what you’re capable of contributing. The boss
can’t learn to trust you if they don’t know what you think. Share your
opinions in open, but always-positive ways. Ask questions that
demonstrate your grasp of the issues, or your willingness to learn. Come
to the table with ideas and solutions, not just the problem that needs
fixing. Be alert and aware of opportunities to support your boss in the
achievement of his or her goals.
and influencing your peers also comes from building relationships and
partnerships. Are you the one always asking for help, or the one who
offers it before being begged? Do you freely share information that
people need to know when they need it? Get to know people in every area
of the organization – not just the line groups, but the support areas,
too. You’d be surprised where you can gain helpful insight and
information! It’s the “Survivor” episode at the office instead of on the
island. Build your alliances wisely and with an eye toward mutual
and leadership is at least as important with those who report to you.
This also applies to people who are not in your direct line, but with
whom you may work who are in a lower strata in the organization. While
you may have the organizational power to get your team to do the things
you want them to do, it is ultimately much more powerful for them to want
to do it for you. Develop that sense of loyalty by showing your own
loyalty to them. Stand up for them in tough situations. Listen to their
ideas with respect and thoughtfulness, in the same way you’d want your
boss to hear you. When they make mistakes, encourage them to find the
right answers, but offer guidance before recriminations.
art of influence is the art of communication, the art of listening, the
art of sharing information and ideas. Building those strong
relationships throughout the organization is the surest path to
developing personal power – the sort that people want to follow.