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Power Play (Part Two of Three)

I made a great connection only later in life when asked to describe power to a friend. Together, we noticed that two types of influence in relationships existed. We decided to call one "positional" and the second "personal."

We found that "Positional Power" is that power (or influence) which is exercised by virtue of a position in relation to others. It is not dependent on personal power but compliments it when used constructively. It is based on what we can offer others.

Our further discussion showed that this power has different flavors, which are all interdependent with each other. We discovered that "Positional Power" had five distinct forms. They are legitimate, reward, punishment, threat and coercive power. Here's what we found:

1) Legitimate Power is the ability to influence (action) other people or yourself by virtue of the rights of the position held. It is formal authority, the right to command and to act in the position of responsibility and accountability. Its power is limited in effect by the respect others give it.

Examples of legitimate power are hierarchical structures in organizations, bosses, parents, children, police officers, and service workers. All are in positions that give each certain rights to decide, take action and have others do the same by virtue of their position.

2) Reward Power is the ability to offer something of value, a positive outcome, or a desirable situation for modifying or continuing behavior. It has only temporary effects and must be continuous to maintain its influence.

Examples of reward power are raises, privileges, bonuses, promotions, favors, attention and compliments.

3) Punishment Power is the ability to deprive by withholding something of value, or a wanted, needed and wanted outcomes for modifying or continuing behavior. Like reward power, it has only temporary effects and must be continuous to maintain its influence.

Examples of punishment power are the withholding of affections, favors, privileges or imposing fines and penalties.

4) Threat Power is the ability to put forth a projection or impression of future consequences and outcomes considered undesirable by another. Its intended use is to compel another person into a behavior which is considered undesirable by them but desirable to you. It is used to influence another person who wants to avoid possible circumstances before they occur. Like reward and punishment power, it has only temporary effects and must be continuous to maintain its influence.

Examples of threat power are all involved in placing another person in any situation where they perceive a physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual danger to themselves or those they care for most if they fail to take specific actions.

5) Coercive Power is the ability to limit another's options and choices. Its intended use is to force another person into a behavior which is considered undesirable by them but desirable to you. Like reward, punishment and threat power, it has only temporary effects and must be continuous to maintain its influence.

Examples of coercive power are any situations where a person is positioned with a limitation on their options, choices and ability to take action contrary to the influence. Firing, contracts and obligations, physical or financial strengths are all forms of this power.

As we discussed these powers, we saw the impact they had on our lives. We also started to see how often we actively chose to place others into positions that empowered them to affect us. The converse was true in that we realized that we had accepted positions that allowed us to exercise these powers.

Bringing all this to the forefront of our thoughts created an implied challenge. How could we use these insights to maximize the impact of positional power in our lives, and those we care for most? The discussion continued . . .

To Review:

  1. List the situations in your life where each of these power forms has its greatest impact on you.
  2. List those situations were you use each of these powers to affect others.
  3. Decide which powers you tend to use most in given situations.
  4. Decide which situations you place others in positions of power over you.
  5. Ask yourself which powers you think might be used more constructively in you life.
  6. What must you do to put these situations into place?

More on this next time.

Have a Bodacious Week!

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Coach John S. Nagy is CEO and Lead Business Coach for Coaching for Success. Inc., a Business Coaching Service specifically designed for top level decision makers dedicated to peak performance in all facets of their activities. Hes hired to focus them continuously in activities that bring higher returns on their resource use. His programs are for the seriously committed. This means having his clients work "ON" their businesses, not just "IN" it. Hes a published author and a multi-degree professional with a nationwide client base. Coach Nagy can be reached through his E-mail address at his website at http://www.coach.net and by calling 813-949-0718.
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Copyright 2000 John S. Nagy


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