Mastering Management: How to Use Power Wisely in Leadership

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Power, an essential component in organizational leadership, shapes the path towards desired outcomes. A manager’s efficacy often rests upon their adept manipulation of various forms of power to influence their subordinates, which can be illustrated in a hypothetical scenario where a manager encourages staff participation in a non-compulsory, work-adjacent training course.

Reward Power,

the ability to provide incentives, is a crucial tool in a manager’s arsenal. This form of power resonates with motivation and job satisfaction theories. For instance, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory suggests that hygiene factors, including rewards like salary increments, bonuses, or additional paid leave, can mitigate job dissatisfaction. Similarly, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the Expectancy Theory, these rewards can serve as powerful motivators, fulfilling employees’ needs and establishing positive expectation-outcome relationships.


Informational Power,

derived from possessing valuable knowledge, a manager can underscore the benefits of the training course. This form of power aligns with the concepts of knowledge sharing and organizational learning, especially significant in today’s knowledge-based economy. Emphasizing the benefits of continuous learning and skill upgrading, the manager’s knowledge about beneficial training programs underscores the importance of strategic human resource development.

Legitimate Power,

rooted in a person’s organizational role, enables a manager to influence the team about the training’s importance. This power is interwoven with bureaucratic authority principles as described by Max Weber, where higher hierarchy individuals, like managers, hold the decision-making power. To ensure an effective balance, managers should complement this power with transformational leadership traits and emotional intelligence, positioning themselves as not just authority figures, but inspiring and supportive leaders.

Although controversial,

Coercive Power,

based on potential negative consequences, has a place in management if used judiciously and ethically. This power aligns with transactional leadership, where leaders ensure compliance through a reward and punishment system. However, modern leadership theories such as servant leadership or ethical leadership advocate for more supportive and less coercive methods to foster followership.

Expert Power,

originating from specific knowledge or expertise, allows managers with specialist knowledge to influence their team’s willingness to participate in the training. This power highlights the concept of thought leadership, where leaders’ deep understanding sets them apart and underpins professional development programs.


Referent Power,

born out of respect or admiration, often characterizes charismatic or transformational leaders who excel at building meaningful relationships and fostering positive work environments. This power is bolstered by emotional intelligence and social influence, inspiring team members to heed the advice of a respected manager.

The dynamics of power in the workplace don’t exist in isolation but intertwine with psychology, management, leadership, motivation theories, and human resources concepts. Harnessing these forms of power, leaders can motivate their team effectively, ensuring that they align their power exercise with the team’s culture, dynamics, and the broader organizational context.

Understanding various motivation theories can guide managers in selecting the appropriate form of power. For instance, if an employee’s lower-level needs, as outlined by Maslow, are met, they may be more motivated by self-actualization opportunities, like learning and development, rather than monetary rewards. Similarly, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory posits that job enrichment through skill-enhancing training can increase motivation and job satisfaction.

However, leadership success doesn’t solely hinge on power wielding capacity but also relies on interpersonal and soft skills such as communication, empathy, adaptability, and conflict management. For example, while technical skills are critical for expert power, a manager might struggle to convey the training’s importance effectively without solid communication skills.

Additionally, managers should be aware of their biases that may skew decision-making and power usage. Biases can emerge during the interview process or conflict management and negotiation scenarios, potentially leading to unfair outcomes. Thus, awareness and mitigation steps are necessary to ensure balanced leadership.

Moreover, the current technology skills gap, notably in countries like Canada and the USA, necessitates continuous learning and skill development, underscoring the relevance of power in influencing employees’ participation in such initiatives.

Lastly, managers must balance power exercise with empathy and understanding, aware of the risk of de-motivating employees through power overuse or misuse. Creating an environment of mutual respect and growth is paramount for nurturing a dynamic, motivated team.


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