Developing Leadership Influence to Excel at Work

Developing Leadership Influence to Excel at Work

When we think about the word "leadership," we often think about a title, a position, or the amount of authority a person has over other people. True leadership, however, has little to do with those things. True leadership, instead, has everything to do with influencehow we authentically influence others. Developing leadership influence is essential to excelling in the workplace.

According to notable research conducted by the University of Michigan from 1959 to 1965, leaders have six types of power available to them. Researchers John R. French and Bertram H. Raven identify them as 6 POWER BASES. We will look briefly at each one to help build a foundation for understanding the choices available to us as leaders today.

  1. COERCIVE POWER - Coercive Power is forcing those you lead to do what you want them to do and not necessarily what they want to do. It may include using threats to gain compliance.
  2. REWARD POWER - Reward Power is holding the keys to things of value. You may offer those things to or deny those things from the people you lead based on their willingness to meet your expectations.
  3. LEGITIMATE POWER - Legitimate Power is the authority connected to your title and role. It is bestowed upon you when you are elected, selected, or appointed to a position.
  4. REFERENT POWER - Referent Power is gaining leadership influence through affiliation with certain people, groups, and organizations. Those you lead may trust you because of "who you know."
  5. EXPERT POWER - Expert Power is commanded by your knowledge, experience, skills, and special talents. Superior expertise in your role creates an element of respect for your leadership.
  6. INFORMATIONAL POWER - Informational Power is being the gatekeeper of important details. The leader controls the quality, the quantity, and the time frame of information released.

Do all six power choices lead to influential leadership? Someone who can answer that question is Brigadier General Bernard Banks, Former Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the US Military Academy. He explains that if you routinely leverage Coercive Power, Reward Power, and Legitimate Power, "you can only get so far." Those you lead may COMPLY with your demands, but they are not likely to COMMIT to your plans. Commitment is usually the result of Referent Power and Expert Power. General Banks shares a compelling example of this analysis in the video, Leading with Influence: The 6 Power Bases.


Leadership Insight

If you feel that your leadership influence has stagnated at work, take a few minutes to evaluate which of the 6 Power Bases you utilize most. If you lean toward Coercive Power, Reward Power, and Legitimate Power, consider possible adjustments to other forms of leadership that could help you excel in your job. Find a mentor, or someone you trust at work, who could give you an outside opinion and guide you on your path to becoming a truly influential leader.

At Eagle Center for Leadership we believe leadership is a choice and influential leadership is intentional. If you'd like to invest in your leadership capacity, click here to check out how our leadership coaches could guide you.