How to Exercise Power and Influence in an Organization

Influence & Persuasion 15th November 2016 Swapnil Kamat

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Take a situation where you have just been promoted and are now in charge of leading and motivating others. You want to drive new initiatives and will need others to agree and cooperate with you. How will you inspire action? If you think formal authority alone is enough to be persuasive, think again. You have to know the importance and how to exercise power and influence in an organization.

To quote Kate Blanchard, co-author of ‘One Minute Manager’, “In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people. They can no longer lead solely based on positional power.” The power that stems from your position as manager, or role power, is just one of the many sources of power that you can rely on to get things done. Your knowledge, network, reputation, character, and personal charm are other sources of power that you can and should tap into in order to accomplish your mission. Power is like a battery – the higher the voltage, the greater the influence you can exert. Let’s explore some strategies to activate your other power bases that will allow you to make a difference in your organization.

Gain centrality and enhance your credibility

It can hardly be debated that people who lack formal power can exert very little influence on others. Your recent promotion might have brought you more formal power than you had before but it may not be enough to fulfill your high-level ambitions. If you aspire to gain access to important organizational resources or visibility with top-level executives, you must enhance your credibility and gain centrality in the organization. To achieve this, ask yourself whether you have something unique to offer to your organization that will make you indispensable. Perhaps you enjoy an enviable reputation for being honest or dependable; how about your knowledge and expertise. As English philosopher Francis Bacon would say, knowledge is indeed power. If people perceive you as someone knowledgeable, hard-working, or trustworthy, they are more likely to be influenced by you.

Related: People Skills Every Professional Must Possess

Develop networks and alliances

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” – old African proverb

When you become a manager, you don’t just get formal authority but also new duties and responsibilities. You must learn to manage not only your team but also the context within which your team operates. Oftentimes you will have far less time and autonomy than you might have imagined. This is why you need to rely on the cooperation of other people to get things done swiftly. These individuals could be people within the organization (such as your peers, supervisors, or direct reports) as well as people outside the organization (such as customers, vendors, and competitors). You cannot demand commitment from people; you have to earn it.

One way to do this is by building networks and alliances to accomplish your goals. Create opportunities to spend time with your supervisor, peers, or customers. You can do this at office as well as in less formal settings such as over lunch. Be open to participating actively in the life of your organization. Getting involved in community projects or other special organizational.

Related: How to Influence People at Workplace

Develop and employ eloquence

Studies have shown that people who are more expressive generally have a greater ability to lead and influence others. Why? Because they are more aware of their ideas, emotions, and reactions; they, therefore, reach a greater audience than less expressive people. So, my final recommendation to you would be to develop your expressiveness and eloquence. It will allow you to inspire and motivate people. However, remember, that if you don’t walk your talk, an ‘inspiration gap’ will surface which will eventually cause you to lose credibility.

Related: Leadership Lessons from our favourite Jon Snow

It pays to remember that power is not about having absolute control, exploiting people in selfish ways, or manipulating others. The proper attitude to have toward power is to see it as a tool to influence people in an ethical way to achieve desired organizational outcomes. Staying true to your own core values and beliefs and engaging others when exercising power will allow you to use it in a more authentic and responsible manner.


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