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Leadership Motivation: Power vs. Authority

Hi all, welcome back to Bonji Hot Takes, where we address some of the opinions and knowledge that we've picked up along our journey in the industry. We are here to offer assistance, stories, and hopefully some value! Today, we are discussing leadership principles power, and authority. As leaders, it's extremely important to, at the very least, understand the ideas that we implement into our daily business lives. Thus, we are here to help explain the proper techniques when influencing and motivating the team you have built!


Power and Authority Although many people may see a lot of similarities between these two forms of influence, there are major differences that can play roles in how people are affected. To begin, the formal definition of power is “a person’s capacity or ability to exert their will over someone else,” whereas, the definition of authority is “the formal and often legal right that a person holds to make decisions and give commands to others.” Authority generally stems from your role in a business or structure, often leading to power. For instance, in the hierarchy of a company, the vice president has authority over the managers. However, there are both good and bad ways to use authority or power. As a leader, you are influencing others everyday, whether it is a subconscious idea or not. Thus, we'll discuss the six common types of power and how you may want or not want to implement them. All of these have the capabilities to motivate your team, however, each scenario you encounter may call for something different. 1. Coercive: Generally a forced manner of influence that only achieves the bare minimum of compliance. Often achieved by the threat of punishment. 2. Reward: The opposite of coercive, as you offer a reward for compliance. Yet, many don't go above and beyond compliance. 3. Legitimate: Power derived from formal relationships and hierarchy. 4. Expert: Based on an individual's expertise in a specific field, derived entirely from personal ability and knowledge. 5: Referent: This type of power is all about personality and respect. You must earn referent power by being trustworthy, charismatic, and reliable. 6: Informational: Having control over the flow of information that is necessary to accomplish tasks. Access to confidential information is key in this age of data. Now, at first, it may seem like coercive and reward power aren't the best options. However, there may be a time and place for each type of power, depending on scenarios and personal leadership style. Both coercive and reward power usually only lead to someone achieving a task and not pushing any further. Having authority in a situation leads to legitimate power, which can be beneficial in a direct manner. Yet, it isn't going to motivate employees to the fullest extent. Our favorite is referent power because it is earned by being a good leader that gains respect from their surrounding people. Commonly, referent power encourages employees to go above and beyond for the leader because they respect and genuinely like them. Expert and informational power are important to keep in mind, but depending on your situation they may not arise as much. Expert power could be used in cases in which employees have questions or need more guidance. With all of this mumbo jumbo in mind, it truly comes down to your scenario and leadership style.



Final Thoughts: Overall, power and authority are both useful leadership influence tools, which we rarely notice at the moment. It's almost a subconscious concept when you are in the position of managing people. Yet, managing people is easily one of the most important skills to have when you are in a leadership role. Therefore, we should at the least be aware of the proper way to handle power and authority. All of this truly depends on your preferred leadership style, a concept we will touch on down the road.

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