November 21, 2014
“One of the things about powerful people is they have the ability to make it look easy” Ice-T
Which are the sources of power in an organisation setting?
Are the previous studies’ outcomes regarding organisational sources of power still relevant? Will these be still relevant in the 21st century setting?
Do the current organisational goals allow the same thinking about power to flourish or is there additional sources that we need to consider as more relevant in this age?
This article will argue that, as I have mentioned here and here, the skill-set of a good “questioner” i.e. someone that has a well-developed inquisitive mind, is the additional source of power that needs to be added to the existing lists. Let’s have a look why.
BRIEF HISTORY IN THE RECENT RESEARCH OF SOURCES OF POWER
1959: French and Raven’s Sources of Power:
In 1959, John French and Bertram Raven (American Sociologists) published an article called “The Bases of Power”. This is regarded as the basis for classifying power in organizations.
They identified five sources of power, namely: coercive, referent, legitimate, expert and reward power. These were defined as follows (reference from Paul Merchant’s article “5 Sources of Power in Organisations“):
1. “Coercive Power is derived from a person’s ability to influence others via threats, punishments or sanctions.
2. Referent power is derived from the interpersonal relationships that a person cultivates with other people in the organization.
3. Legitimate power is also known as positional power. It’s derived from the position a person holds in an organization’s hierarchy.
4. Expert power is derived from possessing knowledge or expertise in a particular area.
5. Reward power arises from the ability of a person to influence the allocation of incentives in an organization”.
1982: Hersley and Blanchard’s addition to the model
French and Raven’s model was expanded in 1982 by Hershey and Blanchard’s publication titled “Management of Organizational Behavior”.
In it, Hershey and Blanchard added two more sources of power namely:
6. Connection power which is derived from the ability to connect people and also from the width and breadth of one’s network (within and outside the organisation)
7. Information Power which derives from been able to gather, process and turn relevant data into information and knowledge. This source may or may not coincide with the Legitimate or Expert power source. The internet has flattened the information field and so, expertise and/or position may not be the only indicators for up to date and relevant / useful information nowadays.
SUMMARY OF POWER SOURCES
We can summarise and possibly simplify this list in the below broader categories i.e. Power because of:
i) Position (Coercive, Legitimate, Rewards, Referent),
ii) Relationships (Connection, Referent)
iii) Information (Expert, Information).
TODAY AND TOMORROW
We currently see that the 21st century brings along a different type of complexity. In the most dynamic and fast changing landscape we have ever experienced the skill sets for breaking down and working through complex issues based on critical thinking and good logical skills become more and more in demand.
The Customer base is becoming increasingly astute, as there are many more tools enabling it to compare and find out a highly customised solution. This is the new norm.
Moreover, social media allows for information to spread rapidly throughout the world. It has been mentioned that, through social media, it now can take less than 20 minutes for an event to spread globally.
As I have discussed here, our ability to combine knowledge and invent solutions to the new challenges encountered can be a very strong differentiator in the marketplace.
“Thinking outside the square” becomes a skill heavily sought after.
Learning how to deal with new issues and organising your analysis, plans and actions towards effectively breaking down a situation and seeking solutions thus, becomes a critical skill.
Just think, when was it last that you had faced a “new” challenge, a more complex situation that you had not encountered before? Who did you seek advice from?
It is possible that you weren’t necessarily looking for a person with the power source described above but for someone who could guide your thinking through the maze of the problem’s elements and potential solutions towards effective mind mapping.
I firmly believe that this is a new source of power that is slowly evolving and establishing itself as a key for the future. We can call it “Effective Questioner” Power.
Organisations by default have positional power figures. The more successful organisations also have relational and informational-experts that deliver results.
How many though have implanted the critical thinking skill-set as a requirement in their Human Resources strategy? I believe that the successful ones of the future will.
Finally, the above plethora of power sources means that we now have more ways to differentiate and add value in an organisation. Like King Arthur who by searching and finding the Excalibur embraced a unique Power and privilege to rule, you now have to consider and reflect on your source of Power and answer the question:
What is your Excalibur?
Previous blog posts on critical thinking, logic and innovation.
- 8 must know question types for Effective Leaders (link here)
- Innovation: SCAMPER- A Practical Guide
- Top Tips – Avoiding Common Negotiation Pitfalls (link here)- First published in TheSource e-news
- 6 Additional Pitfalls to Avoid during a Negotiation – Cognitive Biases (link here)
- The Future of Learning – Are you part of the Learning Revolution? (link here)
- How to Conquer tomorrow? (link here)
- Conscious Communication – A paradigm for the 21st Century! (link here)
- In pursuit of Best Practice – Intrapreneurship (link here). First published in www.procurious.com
- The Leader’s Role is Setting and Keeping the Tune (link here) – Two inspirational Videos included.
- How to develop a winning organisation today! An inspiring talk (link here)
- “All Models Are Wrong, But Some of Them Are Useful” (link here) – First published in Procurement and Supply Australasia