David Marquet writes a lot about leadership. In one of his leadership nudges, he talks about why it’s important to flatten the power gradient. That is how people who have more status, power, and hierarchy can lessen the disparity between bosses and staff. Much of the article is about the relationship with subordinates and is related to status and hierarchy, but there are other types of power that aren’t necessarily just the responsibilities of bosses.
These 6 types of power are:
– Legitimate Power
– Reward Power
– Coercive Power
– Referent Power
– Expert Power
– Informational Power
Legitimate Power, Reward Power and Coercive Power are all forms of typical power that are granted by organisations.
Legitimate Power is power that comes from a position or role. Reward Power is the ability to give rewards when others comply with your wishes. Coercive Power is the opposite of Reward Power. It’s the ability to deliver punishments. These come from managers, leaders and other organisation structures that decide the fate of employees. It’s important for the health of teamwork that people in powerful positions are aware of these types and lessen the effect with their teams to promote great collaboration.
Referent Power, Expert Power and Informational Power are things that anybody can exhibit and manage.
Referent power is about role models. It’s when someone models a way of behaving that others want to copy. Expert Power is where expertise or knowledge is the source of power. This is where credentials, awards, and know-how are a source of control. This is where others defer to knowledge, such as a doctor or mechanic. But it’s only limited to where the expertise lays. For instance, you don’t go to a mechanic for a medical diagnosis.
Informational Power is the most common and volatile power. Information comes and goes. Once someone has the information, power is given away. It’s different from other forms of power because it’s grounded in what you know about the content of a specific situation. Other forms of power are independent of the content.
Referent, Expert and Information Power are things that you can manage with your teammates and those outside of your direct teams. By sharing information more freely and improving transparency, you reduce the gradient of power. It leads to better collaboration. By sharing your knowledge with others you can develop expertise around you.