Where do we get our Power and Influence from as managers?

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Areas of Influence and Power can be gained from two broad sources; the overt and the covert or unseen. Lots has been written by many different people about different sources of power leaders have but there is little really known about the hidden or unseen methods of developing influence.

Overt (seen) methods of Influence boil down into the following areas

1. Force. A crude approach associated with physical power and possibly resource power. This can, and does, include the psychological threat of force which we craft and tailor individually to the person we are dealing with at the time. Bullying is the most immediate form of Force but whole organisations run on the Force principle; prisons are the most extreme model of this but high-pressure organisations are not too far removed from the approach.

2. Rules and Procedures. The application of bureaucracy and process to exert power and influence; managers may invent rules that others have to follow that add weight and power to their position. This can only work however if those on the receiving end of the rules perceive their manager has the authority and right to do this and that they have the necessary means to enforce them.

3. Exchange. The bargaining or bartering of influence where A is cajoled/persuaded/forced into action with the promise of something in exchange from B. The “deal” may be very one-sided and with effectively very little room for options with the use of power and resource bases as the mechanism for making this happen.

4. Persuasion. the use of logic, the power of the argument and the evidence of the facts. we would all recognise the demon “spin” in this approach making our own view especially attractive, even hypnotic, against other, possibly better, options. But life is not fair and we can all be highly polished sales professionals when we need to be. Persuasion is ALWAYS the first option of choice when trying to get our own way.

So those are the Overt choices.of a far more sinister nature we have the Covert options.

5. Ecology. this is the relationship between the manager and their environment and how the two interact. Managers will create small working groups to get maximum involvement and participation and will set up large groups to specifically “divide and rule” in operational and practical terms. at work people follow procedure and are shaped by it; thinking “outside the box” is good but may not be encouraged and may even be tolerated with little commitment to ideas generated through it. How is communication in the organisation structured, how open are recruitment and selection procedures and how rigid are operational procedures?

6. Magnetism. The invisible but highly tangible “pull” of a large force. The real application of personal power. this can be an illogical and sinister awareness of a leader, the s desire to work with them on projects, to move jobs to continue the relationship. this depends on the individual and is a highly personal issue for each individual. This approach is the most likely means of direct bullying and extreme influence and is always open to abuse. Magnetism can even be a form of extreme empathy, feeling the pain of another and wanting to share in it and help them move forward. If played well, another extreme approach open to exploitation and coercion.

The Solution? Much depends on the type of organisation you operate within but the major influence will always be the style of leader you are and the methods of power and influence you choose to use and develop. A one-dimensional manager is a poor manager in the current economic and social climate is a weak manager – cultivate a variety of approaches and use some more sparingly than others.

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