Management Academy – The Three Types of Power as a Manager

Category: Blog Management Management Academy Written by Bryan J. Jacop / March 11, 2014
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Awhile back, a friend of mine was promoted to a junior manager position.  He gave me a call and asked me how he should go about asserting his new found power.  I cautioned him and told him that there are three types of power as a manager.

The first type of power is relationship power.  Relationship power comes from the time and effort you have invested in a relationship.  Your reputation as a considerate and effective person has a lot to do with relationship power.  How likely are you to get things done, and how have you taken care of people in the past.  When people become high-level executives, the relationships they have is their strongest form of power and influence.  That is how they get things done, and what most non-executives look at as politics.

The next type of power is role power.  While this is the most obvious form of power, it also a blunt instrument and it should be used sparingly.  Role power is the power and leverage you gain over someone by being a manager.  This type of power is expressed when a manager comes down on someone and just tells their directs to do something.  It works, but it is not the most effective, and does not create the impression of an effective manager.

The third type of power is knowledge power.  This is the kind of power that comes from knowledge and expertise on a specific subject power.  This type of power can be limited in scope to a particular subject matter or field, or a particular project (the big exception group of this are front line and retail managers, individuals who have to have a much more in depth and comprehensive knowledge base for their role) This can be the most tenuous of types of power, as it depends on the receptiveness of the groups or individuals you working with.

After explaining the three types of power as a manager to my friend, I went on to explain how when I speak with new managers, they usually have a hard time managing their former colleagues, and those relationships often take a beating.  New managers typically use their role power instead of calling upon the strength of their relationships to achieve tasks.  This often strains relationships, and makes new and old managers less effective than they could be if they used relationship power instead of role power.

If you are curious if you use relationship or role power to get things done, a great simple test to use to find out is the punctuation test.  When you assign tasks, do your requests end with a questions mark, period, or exclamation mark?  If a question mark appears at the end of your requests, congratulations, you are using relationship power.  If your requests end with a period or even an exclamation mark, then you are using role power.

It is important to note, even if you think you are asking your directs to finish a task, if you can’t put a question mark at the end of your request, you aren’t asking them.  Many managers confuse using the word ‘please’ with asking a question.  The word ‘please’ is good manners, and can be a softener to make tasks seem less egregious, but it doesn’t turn a request into a question.

The reality is, directs are always going to be aware that a manager has role power over them.  It is one of things you just cannot escape.  Even if you don’t realize it, your directs do.  By using role power more than relationship power, you really are just rubbing their face in it. If you want to build effective relationships with your team, using relationship power first, and role power only very occasionally you’ll have a lot more success.

At then end of the conversation with my friend, he told me he would give what I said a try.  Apparently it’s working out for him.  He was recently promoted to sales director, and told me that he was really glad he started to rely more on relationships instead of his role power.

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Here’s to your success.


Thank for sharing!

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