Using social power can help us better understand and compare the roles of manager and leader. Managers can develop and leverage personal leadership skills to increase their effectiveness in getting results through people.
Although the definition of “leadership” can easily be found in the dictionary, understanding what it truly means to be a leader is a complex topic and the subject of massive ongoing research and discussion. (That shouldn’t be too surprising given the fact that it is so closely linked with understanding the behavior of human beings!) Alternatively, the definition of “management” is more straightforward. Most management textbooks clearly delineate the responsibilities of a manager as planning, organizing, staffing, motivating and controlling.
In the workplace, leadership and management are closely related, and yet still different. A leader does not necessarily have to have a manager’s title, but a manager should certainly strive to be a leader in order to be most successful. Both roles involve influencing others to produce results; however, the difference lies in how they exert that influence. One way to frame that difference is by understanding the source of their power.
In the late 1950s, social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven identified six bases of power, which fall into two categories, Organizational and Personal.
The four Organizational definitions of power are:
- Reward – the ability to provide rewards or positive reinforcement
- Coercive – the ability to mete out punishment or negative consequences
- Legitimate – a function of the person’s formal position in an organization
- Informational – having information that another does not have
- The two Personal definitions of power are:
- Expert – having in-depth knowledge, skills and expertise
- Referent – the ability to attract others and make them want to follow
Managers derive their influence largely from Organizational sources of power. They are given “authority” by managers above them in the hierarchy, and they use some combination of reward, coercive, legitimate and informational power over the people in their assigned department or project to achieve objectives.
On the other hand, leaders affect the behavior of others through Personal sources of power, irrespective of where they fall on an organization chart. People typically respond to the power of an expert such as a surgeon, a chief engineer or a master tradesman. Others are drawn in by the intangible, personal magnetism of referent power that creates trust, respect and loyalty.
Although not everyone is “charismatic,” a person can still attract like-minded people by overtly and intentionally demonstrating their values.
The key is to understand, develop and balance the power that comes from all six bases. Managers who focus on cultivating their personal leadership skills will be rewarded with achieving breakthrough and sustainable results through people. Although it seems that some people are just “born leaders,” it is possible to develop the necessary skills through study, practice and coaching.
Diane Janovsky works at HPISolutions
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