It’s a good question – and every now and then we all find ourselves asking – Does it matter if people at work like or respect me? Answer – “Yes – although perhaps we think it shouldn’t” Rebecca Newton Organizational Psychologist and Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Department of Management, and past Visiting Fellow at Harvard tells us. Newton has been performing research and teaching leadership for 20+ years.
Newton’s research shows and tells us that good personal power generally results from being liked and respected; from which trust develops. Psychologists call it ‘Referent Influence’ or ‘Referent Leadership’.
What is referent power in leadership? Researcher, author and speaker Maggie Wooll – former leader of research at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, tells us – “There are many types of power leaders can have. A great leader knows when to use which type of power in which situation. From reward power to legitimate power, each power is useful in its own way. But there is one form of power that gives leaders (and others) the most influence. And that’s referent power.”
Referent power stems from a leader’s ability to inspire and influence others (in a positive way); and is one of several types – including expert, coercive, reward and legitimate power. These theories of power were originally described by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959; who theorized leadership created by referent power would attract and inspire people. And with the right personal qualities, combined with interpersonal skills, could convert people into loyal followers.
That said, referent power creates strong connections between leaders and followers. French and Raven additionally theorized followers may try to gain a leaders’ approval by imitating them, likening their own thinking to that of the leader and mimicking the way the leader expresses themselves. In short, they see their leader as a kind of role model. Those who follow – admire and respect them.
Furthermore, personal power allows you to influence others positively – without being required to draw upon the power or authority of others in management. With your own power there’s usually no need to say ‘The CEO requires this project be completed by Friday’, for example. When you develop and draw upon your own personal power it’s highly likely others will comply voluntarily – no need to berate or browbeat them into submission. Instead, your personal power brings you the commitment you require which helps lead to healthier work relationships and better work environment.
Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, in his book “Power: Why Some People Have it and Other’s Don’t”, writes: “Systematic empirical research plus common sense and everyday experience suggest: being politically savvy and seeking power are related to career success and even to managerial performance.”
Finding your personal power at work requires:
* Being present
* Being truthful
* Listening and communicating effectively.
An individual with personal power listens and discovers the facts in each situation, then breaks them down to learn how they can best utilize them to encourage and get the most from their team.
Furthermore – Organizational Psychologist Rebecca Newton tells us:
“It’s important to be versatile.” In fact, personal power is partly developed by being versatile. Her research into Kaplan and Keizer, on what makes others consider another a successful leader, one having personal power, is influenced by that leader’s versatility – “their ability to adapt, using diverse styles in various situations with different people: being strategic at times and operationally focused on other occasions; enabling those around you when necessary while at other times being forceful and direct in your approach.” This versatility accounted for about 50% of the difference between whether someone was considered an average or highly successful leader Kaplan and Keizer’s research found.
And the difference between having personal power or not.