Degrees Of Separation: Leveraging Personal Power

While “six degrees of separation” has historically been a standard reference point, today technology, and social networking sites have helped to cut this figure in half. In our world, it is easier to connect than ever before. However, all connections are not equal. An acquaintance is not the same as a friend or confidante. Understanding how to use your personal power enables you to expand your circle of influence and power.

Every relationship starts with an introduction and a period that might be dubbed the “get to know you” stage. It is when we learn small tidbits about another person’s background, skills, and experiences. Some people enjoy working a crowded room, displaying a mastery of the fine art of networking, while others intermingle more cautiously.  Whatever the speed, the ability to make contacts and new acquaintances expands our personal or Linkage power.

power-linkageLinkage power stems from conferences, cocktails, social media, etc. and is marked by the exchange of business cards or contact information. These connections are beneficial but restricted. The “mileage” is limited to other surface connections.

Translating the typically superficial linkage connection into Relationship Power takes time, respect, and mutual exchange. Only then can you really “count” on another person or group. The benefits of learning to effectively foster Relationship Power include increased job satisfaction, improved team spirit and loyalty, and the sharing of insights and information.

Cultivating a relationship entails iterative interactions that increase comfort and deepen a sense of mutual ties. Commonalities are discovered and differences respected as connections are transformed into relationships. Evidence of relationship power varies from a mentor who offers guidance, a team member who has your back, or a colleague who gives you a heads up. In addition, there is a sense of reciprocity in a relationship.  Favors are returned, increasing the strength of the bond. Going above and beyond the call of duty to help another is the hallmark of a solid relationship.

If you are interested in expanding your personal power, here are a few tips to help you build both Linkage and Relationship:

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6 Tips for Enhancing Linkage Power

  1. Just do it. Set aside time and make it a priority
  2. Attend social events and meetings
  3. Embrace technology. Find opportunities to interact digitally
  4. Be visible and accessible
  5. Build connections within your group as well as across the organization
  6. Pay it forward; help to connect others

6 Tips for Enhancing Relationship Power

  1. Show sincere interest in another’s ideas, initiatives, and successes
  2. Listen to concerns and suggestions while exploring potential solutions
  3. Take time to connect on a professional and personal level
  4. Maintain personal contact
  5. Request feedback and input
  6. Demonstrate respect personal values and/or cultures


Take a moment to assess your personal power practices. What will expand your network? What will deepen those connections into relationships? Today is a good day to capitalize on your “three degrees of separation.”


Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of "Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.

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