What? Power. We learn in chapter 13 that power is “that which enables one to accomplish goals; the capacity to act or the strength and potency to accomplish something”. The specific types of power outlined in the text are reward (granting favors or other rewards), coercive (using punishment for unmet expectations), legitimate (positional), expert (gained through knowledge, expertise or experience), referent (through positions or what a person symbolizes), charismatic (personal attributes), informational (obtained by having information necessary for others to accomplish their goals), and feminist or self (power gained over one’s own life) powers.
So What? Understanding the different types of power will help leaders be more effective in using their power. Additionally, it is important to distinguish between power and authority, the right to command. Perhaps of even greater importance is the ability to recognize what power is not. Though some legitimate power is inherently given to certain leadership positions, misuse of power can be catastrophic. Stan Lee, an American writer and memoirist penned the phrase (and was later quoted in the popular Spiderman movie in 2002) “with great power comes great responsibility”. Followers initially give little respect to their leaders regardless of how much power may be anointed by their positions. Power alone means little unless a leader also develops a relationship of trust and loyalty with his or her subordinates.
Now What? Power has been proven to be dichotomous by nature. Those who want it often don’t want it for virtuous reasons, while those who would use power for noble purposes rarely seek it. Abraham Lincoln once said “a leader takes people where they want to go, but a great leader takes people where they ought to be”. Leaders who use their power for virtuous reasons often see their power and influence among their followers grow exponentially. Understanding the true source of power is a vital step in leadership.