Some people may claim that authority, power and influence are almost identical things when it comes to leading a team or even the whole organization. These concepts may be related, but they’re completely separate and autonomous. The thing is that, misunderstanding about the minor distinctions of these notions can make a big difference in the process of building organization culture, in communication and in the team itself. So, what is defining each of these concepts in terms of organizational behavior?
First of all, it is quite clear that the absence of one of these components will decrease the power of another. And the reason for this is that they are supplemental to each other. When talking about the influence I can’t help saying that its importance can not be overemphasized. The influence itself appears in the moment when a person affects other people, the way they act or think. It’s a powerful tool which can be used only if a person will prove his or her competence and professionalism to other people to make them believe in influencer’s ideas and follow them.
To master this ability, one must also keep in mind, that he will also be responsible for the events that come as a consequence of his influence, and there is no matter if the outcome is good or a bad one. If to go more deeply, there are 6 influence tactics which may be imposed in order to have an impact on people. A push strategy is rather effective but not really loyal, as it requires imposing or threatening to impose some costs on workers, if they are not doing their work properly. Moreover, it can also lead to distrust rather than to genuine acceptance.
A pull strategy of rewarding must also be used carefully, because rewards considered as unfair will greatly reduce the motivation. Persuasion strategy is the preferred option, because people will do what you require, as they believe in what you are trying to say by yours explanation of the reason through the argument. Preparatory strategy is good in a way that it is preparing the ground for the future tries in affecting people. The point of preventive strategies is quite obvious, as they are used for prevention certain actions, questions and inappropriate behavior. We all try to make others to do what we want, that is the art of influence, which can be mastered by anyone.
As uncle Ben from Spider-man comics ones said: ”With great power comes great responsibility.” This quote, which is sometimes used in politics, books and media, may seem ridiculous to some extent, as it was taken from comics, but it has a very deep meaning. As power is the ability to influence events, it makes a person influence another individual to perform an act. That’s why, dealing with power requires outstanding responsibility.
While individuals, who had been influenced, have gone along something and change their attitudes with their own will, power commands behavior of others and make them accomplish things, because they feel required to follow your directions. If the power will be used for good, it can cause significant positive changes. For instance, motivate staff, push employees to greater achievements and obviously increase loyalty and commitment. However, wrongly used power may cause irreparable modifications in organization.
For example, it can cost company money because of lost productivity of employees. I do not deny that there is always a risk than power will appear in wrong hands, but the absence of power may cause even more dramatic consequences. It may create confusion, anxiety and the sense of helplessness in staff. So to understand the nature of power and avoid all the uncertainties John R. P.French and H. Raven introduced five sources of power which are now called French and Raven’s Five Bases of Power. First one is referent power which is also called the power of personality. This power comes from the person itself. An individual attracts his followers by the magnetic personality and leadership to such an extent that other copy their behavior or even appearance.
John Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King belong to such people. Legitimate power comes from higher authorities and gives power to control the resources, fire, reward or punish others. The expert power is one of the most powerful tools, to my mind. The power of knowledge shows skills which other people need but do not possess. The prefect example of such people may be doctors or lawyers, because they have expert skills in the branches which are also necessary for other people. The coercive power is only working in the short run, as the point of this power is in ability to punish or pose the threat to others.
This power uses fear as the main tool and key motivator. However, the usage of such power will create a negative impact on the receiver. On the contrary, there is diametrically opposite power, which is called reward power. It enables an individual to praise the workers in material way by increasing the salary, providing additional facilities and also motivating people to improve their performance.
Last but not least, the concept of authority which is wrongly considered to be the same as power. Authority is just a formal right to make any kind of decision or command and perform certain tasks for-the sake of company. It is used to improve the administrative efficiency of an organization. The main difference between power and authority is that power is a personal ability to influence the others, while authority is the formal one. Another difference is that authority is delegated by the superiors to subordinators, while power flows in any direction be it from subordinator to superiors or vice versa.
All in all, the ability to control and use properly each of this components is essential not just for the sake of team or company, bur for the usage in real life too. To my mind, power and influence has to be earned and learned, while authority is simply given. Power is learned through skills and experience. Influence is rather natural ability, which can be also gained, throughout some period of time. But authority can also be given because of persistence and hard work. So, possession even of one of these qualities can make you a stronger person, but if you master all of them, it will make you invincible.