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If we look up  the definition of the word power it says, “the ability to act or produce an effect.” Organizations, especially in the advent of social media,  have long provided theories about the source of power.

Why do we do what others tell us to do? Why do some people attract a loyal tribe of followers while others struggle to eek out a living from their businesses? What makes some celebrities “A” listers worth 24 million dollars a movie?

The people who researched the topic of power (primarily as it pertains to our leadership abilities) came up with two major categories; Position Power and Personal Power. They also concluded that we will do what others tell us to,  by virtue of the  power that they hold. (Buy my widgets! Take this pill twice a day, etc.)

Position Power

Legitimate Power is created by virtue of the title that a person holds. This includes your father, or  boss or  doctor. Also, the President has legitimate power by virtue of the position and title he holds.

People in a position of power also have the ability to reward us with praise or a prize, and/or to punish us. These powers are called Reward Power and Coercive Power. 

A good example is the classic religious example of a Priest or Reverend. You will act the right way or you will suffer for all eternity. Dad, on the other hand, would just take off his belt and exercise his coercive power on your hiney.

Personal Power

The other category is called Personal Power. We do what people tell us to because they are the expert and know the right answers to cure what ails us (Expert Power). Personal Power does not necessarily mean that someone is a credentialed professional, either.

Referent Power is more in line with charisma; we follow these people because they possess positive personalities traits that we find pleasing. These are the people that we commonly say could sell ice to an Eskimo.

Want your book to be an instant best seller? Get Oprah to add it to her book club. Actually, get Oprah to endorse you in any way whatsoever and you will be an instant success thanks to her Referent Power.

Personal and Position Power Collide

The other sources of power are the Connection Power and Information Power. If you’ve heard of the Old Boys Network, you’ve seen connection power in action. Sororities, fraternities, trade organizations, and other specific groups give people power by the sheer source of who they know.

Information power, on the other hand, has probably saved more than a few spies lives. They know something so deep, so penetrating, that others just can’t wait to get their hands on it. Informational Power is when a person has needed or wanted information. 

Sources of Power

Now, within those seven sources of power, consider that maybe a better word might be sources of influence. You don’t have to be highly credentialed or academically achieved to be extremely powerful. 

So where is your source of power?

Although it may sound trite, I am reminded of the movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie Glinda tells Dorothy, “You always had the power to return to Kansas, my Dear.” Meaning that the power was always within her.

The idea is that our power is inside us, and that we have to trust ourselves, and our personal choices, to accomplish our goals. We can use this research to leverage ourselves as leaders, influencers, and stars of our own shows.

We can also take advantage of the systems of reward they found while doing this research. Do you want to use your power for good (you did an awesome job today!) or evil (your work is not acceptable!)?

How to Find a Source of Power

Remember that you have two types of power: Personal and Position. If you are a boss, you have position power. If you are Oprah, you have personal power.  By recognizing what each means, you can tap into the power that’s best suited for you.

Not sure what you could possibly be recognized for? Tap into your expert power. Do you feel lonely? Maybe gaining connection power with an industry group will help you feel more like a part of an organization where you are valued.

Still need help sorting it out? Contact me for a conversation on how to feel more empowered.

Dr. Ines K. RoeDr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’ve  been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.