All Articles Leadership Development Do you have all 3 kinds of power at work?

Do you have all 3 kinds of power at work?

Paul Thornton explains what the three types of power are and offers suggestions for becoming more powerful in each area.

4 min read


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More is better! The more power at work you have, the more able and prepared you are to direct, advise and influence people.    

Effective leaders use their power to help individuals, teams and organizations achieve success. Conversely, ineffective leaders squander their power, hoarding it for personal gain. 

There are three types of power.  

1. Position power

Your position on the org chart gives you power over the people below you.   

Position power allows you to:  

  • Assign tasks, schedule meetings and establish the agenda. 
  • Evaluate employees’ performance and approve pay increases and promotions.   
  • Coach employees and reward people for making positive contributions.
  • Discipline and fire people. 

But wait … 

Do you really have all that power? Maybe not. It depends on your boss. He or she may limit your power at work. 

You can recommend pay increases but I need to approve them.” 

Before you take any disciplinary action, you need to review it with me.” 

Your boss determines how much position power you really have.  

Even when some leaders have position power, they don’t fully utilize it. They may never reward people or administer discipline when they should. They may not address the elephant in the room or provide negative feedback because they fear having difficult conversations. 

Actions you can take to increase your position power:

  • Consistently deliver high-quality work and exceed expectations. It leads to promotions and more position power. 
  • Help your boss succeed. That often opens the door to bigger opportunities for you. 

What would you add to this list?

2. Expert power

You listen to your doctor, accountant and lawyer because of their expertise. In a similar way, you can become an expert in some aspect of business, such as strategic planning, appreciative inquiry, online marketing, team-building or business analytics. To build your expert power at work, select a topic that interests you and study it in depth.

  • Take classes, read books, attend seminars and conferences.
  • Acquire degrees, certifications and other credentials that reinforce your expertise.   
  • Work with mentors and other experts who can provide valuable insights. 

Expert power becomes ineffective when you don’t keep your knowledge and skills up to date.  

You also need to promote yourself as an expert by writing articles and books, conducting seminars and building your reputation. Become the go-to person in your area of expertise. 

Actions you can take to increase your expert power at work: 

  • Build relationships with other experts in your field.  
  • Take on high-profile projects that showcase your expertise and increase your visibility within the organization. 
  • Remain humble and open-minded. Even if you’re an expert, there is always more to learn. 

What one action will you take to increase your expert power? 

3. Personal power

The third type of power is often described as charisma. People with charisma are optimistic and upbeat. They project both strength and warmth. 

  • Strength comes from a deep understanding of beliefs and values. They have excellent communication skills and are able to clearly and succinctly articulate their views. In addition, they are decisive and project a high level of confidence.  
  • Warmth comes from being friendly, social and interested in people’s ideas and insights. They are good at telling stories and making people feel valued.    

People with personal power develop connections with influential people both inside and outside the organization. They use their network to acquire resources, gain support and get things done. 

Personal power becomes ineffective when you become over-confident or arrogant.  

Actions you can take to increase your personal power at work: 

  1. Increase your executive presence. Learn to eliminate distractions and be fully present in the current moment. 
  2. Work on improving your emotional intelligence and active listening skills.   
  3. Find the right balance of being confident and humble. 

What will you work on to become more charismatic? 

Increasing your power is a worthwhile goal. The more power you have, the more prepared you are to get things done and help people succeed. 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 



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