I’ve Got the Power

The range of ways people exercise and respond to power can be complicated.


Think of power in this case as the ability to exercise influence.

Power is not intrinsically good or bad. We ascribe meaning to power and make choices about how we will use it or react to its use by others. Ultimately, power is a responsibility, and it exists as a function of the individual, one’s followers, and the situation at hand.

Nicole Lipkin is a corporate psychologist who has spent her career diagnosing and resolving typical and troublesome leadership dilemmas. Her book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night? examines the underlying psychology that plays a big role behind those dilemmas.

One of those dilemmas, for instance, is understanding why people don’t buy-in to your thoughts, ideas, or proposals.

It’s all about power.

7 Distinct Types of Power

  • Legitimate Power – arising from one’s title or position in the pecking order and how other perceive that title or position. Those with legitimate power can easily influence other because they already possess a position of power.
  • Coercive Power – using threat and force to influence others. This power comes from fear, and failure to comply will lead to punishment.
  • Expert Power – derived directly from a person’s skills or expertise or from perceived skills or expertise. Expert power is knowledge-based.
  • Informational Power – possessing needed or wanted information. People with high informational power wield influence because they control access.
  • Reward Power – motivating people to respond in order to win raises, promotions, and awards.
  • Referent Power – dependent on personal traits and values such as honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. People with high referent power can highly influence anyone who admires and respects them.
  • Connection Power – creating influence by proxy. People employing this power build important coalitions with others.

These seven types of power generally fall into one of two categories: Formal Power (legitimate, coercive, and reward) and Informal Power (referent, expert, informational, and connection). As a leader, you may be use most, if not all, of these types of power during a typical day.

But when it comes to influencing people without creating potentially negative side effects, referent, expert, informational, and legitimate power seem to work best.

Coercive, connection, and reward power require more careful application because they rely on a higher degree of trust and risk and therefore can become easily manipulative.

You’ve got the power…

…don’t blow it.

inspired by What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, by Nicole Lipkin

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s