Power - Lead from the Front
There are many types of power that leaders can use.
problematic ones such as the power of position, the power to give
rewards, the power to punish and the power to control information.
While these types of power do have some strength, they put the
person being lead in an unhealthy position of weakness, and can
leave leaders using these power bases looking autocratic and out of
More than this,
society has changed hugely over the last 50 years. Citizens are
individually more powerful, and employees are more able to shift
jobs. Few of us enjoy having power exerted over us, and some will do
what they can to undermine people who use these sorts of power.
are three types of positive power that truly effective leaders use:
Charismatic power, expert power and referent power.
teaches the technique of building expert power.
Using the Tool:
Expert power is
essential because as a leader, your team looks to you for direction
and guidance. Team members need to believe in your ability to set a
worthwhile direction, give sound guidance and co-ordinate a good
If your team
perceives you as a true expert, they will be much more receptive
when you try to exercise influence tactics such as rational
persuasion and inspirational appeal.
And if your team
sees you as an expert you will find it much easier to guide them in
such a way as to create high motivation:
If your team members respect your expertise, they'll know that
you can show them how to work effectively;
If your team members trust your judgment, they'll trust you to
guide their good efforts and hard work in such a way that you'll
make the most of their hard work; and
If they can see your expertise, team members are more likely to
believe that you have the wisdom to direct their efforts towards
a goal that is genuinely worthwhile.
if your team sees you as an expert, you will find it much easier to
motivate team members to perform at their best.
So how do you
build expert power?
The first step is fairly obvious (if time consuming) – gain
expertise. And, if you are already using tools like the
information gathering tools in "How to Lead", the chances are
that you have already progressed well ahead in this direction.
But just being
an expert isn’t enough, it is also necessary for your team members
to recognize your expertise and see you to be a credible source of
information and advice. Gary A. Yukl, in his book “Leadership in
Organizations,” details some steps to build expert power. A summary
of these steps follows:
Promote an image of expertise:
Since perceived expertise in many occupations is associated with
a person’s education and experience, a leader should (subtly)
make sure that subordinates, peers, and superiors are aware of
his or her formal education, relevant work experience, and
One common tactic to make this information known is to display
diplomas, licenses, awards, and other evidence of expertise in a
prominent location in one’s office – after all, if you’ve worked
hard to gain knowledge, it’s fair that you get credit for it.
Another tactic is to make subtle references to prior education
or experience (e.g., “When I was chief engineer at GE, we had a
problem similar to this one”). Beware, however, this tactic can
easily be overdone.
Once established, one’s image of expertise should be carefully
protected. The leader should avoid making careless comments
about subjects on which he or she is poorly informed, and should
avoid being associated with projects with a low likelihood of
Act confidently and decisively in a crisis:
In a crisis or emergency, subordinates prefer a “take charge”
leader who appears to know how to direct the group in coping
with the problem. In this kind of situation, subordinates tend
to associate confident, firm leadership with expert knowledge.
Even if the leader is not sure of the best way to deal with a
crisis, to express doubts or appear confused risks the loss of
influence over subordinates.
Expert power is exercised through rational persuasion and
demonstration of expertise. Rational persuasion depends on a
firm grasp of up-to-date facts. It is therefore essential for a
leader to keep well-informed of developments within the team,
within the organization, and in the outside world.
Recognize subordinate concerns:
Use of rational persuasion should not be seen as a form of
one-way communication from the leader to subordinates. Effective
leaders listen carefully to the concerns and uncertainties of
their team members, and make sure that they address these in
making a persuasive appeal.
Avoid threatening the self-esteem of subordinates:
Expert power is based on a knowledge differential between leader
and team members. Unfortunately, the very existence of such a
differential can cause problems if the leader is not careful
about the way he exercises expert power.
Team members can dislike unfavorable status comparisons where
the gap is very large and obvious. They are likely to be upset
by a leader who acts in a superior way, and arrogantly flaunts
his greater expertise.
In the process of presenting rational arguments, some leaders
lecture their team members in a condescending manner and convey
the impression that the other team members are “ignorant.” Guard
This is one of
the articles in “How
to Lead: Discover the Leader Within You”. Not only does the
course explain how to use the other "good" power bases, it teaches
you how to use a range of honest influence tactics and powerful
here to find our more about “How to Lead".