Al Gini noted that the word ‘power’ comes from the Latin posse: to do, to be able, to change, to influence or effect. He says that
‘To have power is to possess the capacity to control or direct change. All forms of leadership must make use of power. The central issue of power in leadership is not ‘Will it be used?’ But rather ‘Will it be used wisely and well?’
Since I am a person who views leadership as a role we all need to be playing, we need to be looking at the various types of power that people possess.
In the professional realm, there are a number of ways to gain and maintain power, including these 3:
- Positional power. This type of power is all about the power you wield because of the title you have or the position you hold. The negative way to look at this would be some of the people in Washington (on both sides of the aisle) who are intoxicated with this kind of power – and also, are not necessarily people who would have power in any other way other than their position. On the other hand, there are those – and you may be one of them – that because of your position, you have legitimate power. Holding a position of power, either because of your title, your role, your responsibility, is not something to dismiss and certainly not something to squander. So, attend to your positional power if that is one of the types you have.
- Informational power. This is what someone possesses when he/she “knows” something – particularly when what is known is not known by everyone else. On the downside, some people who wield this type of power in the workplace make sure they hold on to their jobs because they are the only ones who “know” anything. My observations are that folks like this hold their knowledge close to the vest, knowing that it gives them power – and generally, these are people who ONLY have power in this one way and they wield it mightily. On the upside of informational power, you can possess this kind of power because you have knowledge, skills, or expertise in an area that others don’t possess. You can be valued for that and thus attributed power. Using your knowledge, whether than includes skills, solutions, methodology, or other tools, to benefit individuals and groups is extraordinarily positive – and naturally, I’m thinking of “benefit” in its most unselfish state.
- “Purse” power. Someone with this kind of power controls resources and that is why they have power. You can probably think of personal and professional examples of people with ‘purse power.’ Like the previous examples, you can use your power over resources including people, money, and the like in morally and ethically beneficial ways (or not). I prefer the former, as I know you do.
People are seeking leadership in those around them. Take a look at which of these three you possess – and let your life exude positive leadership. People are somewhat freaked-out right now and they will welcome someone who shows what it means to lead vs. being ‘needy’ and pathetic by clobbering people with their ‘power.’