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Managers have multiple sources of power to manage change and develop organizations.

Many organizations have power vacuums at various levels because managers do not take up the power that is rightfully theirs.

Power has become something of a dirty word in organizations because the term is often associated with misuse or abuse.

The reality is that organizations are arenas of operations, relationships, power and influence.   Managers by their very position have organizational power and the responsibility to use it effectively.

However, the core issue is how a manager utilizes their sources of power for the welfare of their staff and the achievement of organizational goals.

There are three basic ways to use power:

  1. power over – involves the directive, coercive or manipulative use of power
  2. power through – involves consulting and involving employees in decision making and implementation
  3. power with – involves information and power sharing, engaging employees in the decision process and acknowledging a mutual interest in achieving organizational goals.

Managers can access multiple sources of power to legitimately pursue organizational goals.

A manager has power by virtue of their position – positional power.  This relates to their location in the organizational structure and the delegations that go with their position.

Over time most managers develop expert power through mastering some aspect of the organization’s operations.   Expertise enables them to exercise influence in the organization.

Through networking, mentoring and volunteering for significant projects,  managers build up referent power – which derives from who they know and who knows them.  This power provides them with another source of influence which may have its origins outside the formal organizational structure, e.g. in a professional association or charitable organization.

Managers also develop personal power through the power of their personality or strength of character, by building up goodwill through their actions and/or by demonstrating competence.

The inherent challenge for a manager is how they are going to tap into their sources of power and use them for their employees’ welfare and the advancement of the organization’s goals.

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