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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Power and Sources of Power

Concept of Power ?  distinguish between power, authority and influence. What are the various sources of power ?

Power is said to be like love, impossible to define but easy enough to recognise (Martin, 1977). Power is understood as the ability to influence other people and events.
In the words of White and Bednar, "Power is the ability, to influence people of things, usually obtained through the control of important resources."
A comprehensive definition of power is given by Dahl (1957), when he wrote that "A has power over l3 to the extent that he can get B to do something B would not otherwise do." Russell (1938) conceptualizes power as "the production of intended effects."
Dehl's definition suggests that power must overcome resistance in order to succeed whereas according to Russell, power need not imply resistance. All the above definitions suggest that power involves compulsion.
These has been a recent trend towards empowerment, the shifting of power away from managers and into bands of subordinates. Empowerment occurs in varying degrees in different organisations.
Usually, the term power is intertwined with another concept, authority. But there is a difference between the two concepts. Power refers to the capacity to influence others. The person who possesses power has the ability to manipulate or change the behaviour of others. Authority, on the other hand, is the source of power. Authority is legitimate and it confers legitimacy to power. Power itself need not be legitimate.

Authority exists where one person has a formal right to command and another has a formal obligation to obey. Authority may be seen as institutionalised power. For example, a police officer has authority to `stop' a motorist. The motorist is legally obliged to comply. Managers are said to possess a `right to manage'. Employees are legally obliged to obey the employer's instructions provided these are lawful and within the scope of the contract of employment.
Whereas power and authority are potentially mandatory, influence, by contrast implies persuasion. Influence is usually conceived of being broader in scope, than power, Influence is more closely associated with leadership than power, but both obviously are involved in the leadership process.
Marx was highly influential but not powerful. in contrast Stalin was powerful but not influential. In organisations, employees may influence decisions through joint consultative committees and other mechanisms, yet the organisation reserves the final say.
Interpersonal Sources of Power :
French and Raven identity five interpersonal sources of power: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power.
Reward Power: Reward power is an individual's ability to influence others' behaviour by rewarding their desirable behaviour. Employees comply with requests and directives because of the authority of managers to grant rewards in the form of praise, promotions, salary increase, bonuses, and time-off. Reward power can lead to better performance, but only as long as the employee sees a clear and strong link'between performance and rewards.
Coercive Power: Coercive power is an individual's ability to influence others' behaviour by means of punishment for undesirable behaviour. For example, subordinates may comply because they expect to be punished for failure to respond favourably to managerial directives. Punishment may be major or minor, depending on the nature of omission or commission.
Legitimate Power: Legitimate power most often refers to a manager's ability to influence subordinates' behaviour because of the manager's position in the organisational hierarchy. Subordinates may respond to such influence because they acknowledge the manager's legitimate right to prescribe certain behaviours.
Legitimate power is an important organisational concept. Typically, a manager is empowered to make decisions within a specific area of responsibility, such as quality control, accounting, human resource, marketing, and so on.
Expert power: Expert power is an individual's ability to influence others' behaviour because of recognised skills, talents, or specialised knowledge. To the extent that managers can demonstrate competence in analysing, evaluating, controlling, and implementing the tasks of subordinates, they will acquire expert power.
Referent Power: Referent power is an individual's ability to influence others' behaviour as a result of being liked or admired. For instance, subordinates' identification with a manager often forms the basis for referent power, This identification may include the desire of the subordinates to emulate the manager. Referent power is usually associated with the individuals who possess admired personality characteristics, charisma, or a good reputation.
Structural Sources of Power :
Much of the attention directed at power in organisations tends to focus on the power of managers over subordinates. An additional perspective is that the characteristics of the situation affect or determine power. Important structural sources of power include knowledge, resources, decision making and networks.
Knowledge as Power: Organisations are information processors that must use knowledge to produce goods and services. The concept of knowledge as power means that individuals, teams, groups, or departments that possess knowledge are crucial in attaining the organisation's goals. Intellectual capital represents the knowledge, know-how, and competency that exist in the organisation. This intellectual capital can provide an organisation with a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Resources as Power: Organisations need a variety of resources, including money, human resources, equipment, materials, and customers to survive. The importance of specific resources to an organisation's success and the difficulty in obtaining them vary from situation to situation. The departments, groups, or individuals who can provide essential or difficult-to-obtain resources acquire more power in the organisation than others.
Decision making as Power: The decision making process in an organisation creates more or less power differences among individuals or groups. Managers exercise considerable power in an organisation simply because of their decision making ability. Although decision making is an important aspect of power in every organisation, cultural differences make for some interesting differences in the relationship. For example, in Chinese organisation, decision making power was more decentralised in manufacturing firms than in service organisations. The reverse was true in British firms, with power being more decentralised in the service organisations than in the manufacturing firms.
Networks as Power: The existence of structural and situational power depends not only on access to information, resources and decision making, but also on the ability to get cooperation in carrying out tasks. Managers and departments that have connecting links with other individuals and departments in the organisation will be more powerful than those who don't have.
Bases of power :
Etzioni identifies three basic resources of power namely, (a) coercion, (b) remunerative power, and (c) normative power.
Coercion means the ability to manipulate physical sanctions including physical chastisement, forcible detention, to deprive a person of food, sleep and other physiological needs. Force is therefore required in order to obtain compliance. Examples of such organisations include jails, detention centres, concentration camps, and some psychiatric hospitals.
Remunerative power refers to the ability to manipulate material rewards and sanctions including salaries, wages, promotions and training. Utilitarian organisations engage in 'producing goods and services for sale in the market place. Material inducement is required to procure compliance. Such organisations include factories, hotels and commercial enterprises.
Normative power rests upon human need for approval and recognition. It refers to the ability to manipulate symbols including medals, gadgets, badges and certificates. Normative organisations are those whose mission is primarily idealistic or value-based. Such organisations include voluntary organisations and political groups, schools, universities and hospitals. The members of these organisations are highly committed.
According to Etzioni each form of power is associated with a particular form of involvement. Coercion is associated with alienation and hostility, remunerative power with calculative involvement and normative power with moral involvement.


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