Wednesday 18th September 22:32

Empowerment: The Nature of Power

thenatureofpower_142According to Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Business School, power is the only way things get done in an organization. While this is undoubtedly true, today’s empowered organizations have changed our whole notion about just what power is and who really has it. Traditional approaches to power say you only have power if you have a title and status, the right connections, and something others need such as information. Today, things are not quite so simple. In information organisations, everyone has a level of power they never had before. Add to that the power that comes from personal skills and the whole balance of power can shift. Here are 7 key factors in how power works in today's "empowered" organisations.

1. The Way You See Power

In the hierarchical view of organizations, there is only one way to see power and that is that power resides with those at the top. In the new empowered forms of organizations, however, there is a less defined view of power. That’s because when you empower people, power can be anywhere in the organization: with those at the top, those dealing with customers, those doing a key job, those whose time has come, and so on.

2. The Two Forms of Power

There are two kinds of organizational power: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down power is the traditional form of power and usually resides with those who have status and position. On paper, these people are the most powerful in the organization. Bottom-up power is a more interesting form of power. It can reside with anyone who has the power to make a difference. In short, it can be called “screw-up power”. While people with screw-up power have no formal position, they have an unlimited power to make a difference to how well your business performs.

3. Impression Power

The traditional form of top-down power is impression power. It depends on using the potential of power rather than the actuality of power and uses shows of force to get people to act. There are many legitimate uses of impression power, for example, if you want to sell an idea, to argue a point of view, or to motivate others to act. Those who play politics in organizations use impression power to build empires, grab the lion’s share of resources, and promote themselves.

4. Your Power to Get Things Done

Impression power is a form of power that is based on the trappings of power, such as status, connections, and power displays. The power to get things done, however, is based on none of these. It is based on your personal qualities and skills such as persistence, determination, vision, leadership, interpersonal skills, and the ability to change. None of these depend on your position in the organization and so can be developed whatever your job or role.

5. How Power Works

In the traditional organization, power works by threat and force. In the empowered organization, power works by how much you can give away. When you give people the power to own their jobs, make decisions that affect them, and allow them to be responsible for outcomes, you do what W. Edwards Deming believed empowerment was: the power to fully do your job.
6. Daily Acts of Empowerment

The reason why empowerment has such power to change an organization is that you can do it every day in many small ways. Just taking an interest in what people do and listening to their ideas are forms of empowerment. So is praising people for results and asking them what they want of you. You can create a revolution by making empowerment a daily habit.

7. Be One of the Haves

We used to think that having power and position meant being one of the “haves” while being powerless meant being one of the “have nots”. However, today’s empowered organizations have changed all that. Today, the haves are those who can acquire freedom, self-confidence and riches without depriving others of them while the have-nots are those who spread fear and dependence by making others poor. Join the ranks of the haves.

Power is a curious thing. For many, it is regarded as a finite limited commodity which they have to hang on to in case it disappears or is taken from them. By contrast, today’s empowered organizations prove that personal power is unlimited. In giving it away and developing it in others, you don’t lose it. You actually increase it and at the same time do yourself a power of good.

Browse the ManageTrainLearn range of products on power and empowerment here.