The Elements of Power:
Lessons on Leadership and Influence
By: Terry Bacon
Head: (4 of 5)
Heart: (3.5 of 5)
Leadership Applicability: (4.5 of 5)
What exactly is power, and where does it come from? Many of us think of it as emanating from position, authority, title, or wealth, flowing only one way: downward. But in a model developed after many years of careful study and research, consultant and author Terry Bacon has presented us with the idea that positional power is only one of 11 types of power: five personal (Knowledge, Expressiveness, History, Attraction, and Character), five organizational (Role/Position, Resources, Information, Network, and Reputation, and one “meta-source”: Will.)
To lead or influence people effectively, you must have a sufficient power base, which can be drawn from a mix of these power types. Thus, an ordinary employee who is popular, knowledgeable and well-networked within the organization may have more real influence than a manager several levels above him. Either party could improve their ability to lead and influence by first assessing their levels of each of these powers and then spending some time and energy further developing the ones that makes the most sense for their goals.
Since our newsletter’s theme this year is “Connecting in the New Economy,” let’s take a look at the Network Power, which Bacon defines as “power derived from the breadth and quality of your connections with other people.” Network power is based on the social capita of network members through reciprocal respect, admiration, favor granting, and collaboration, he says. Network power is a substantial source of organizational power-high ratings on this power source can triple your effectiveness at influencing, Bacon claims, and make your leadership substantially more inspirational.
The ability to grow Network Power will depend a lot on the personal powers: Attraction will help you add more people to your network, as will your domain knowledge, your ability to articulate with eloquence, your skill in drawing out and remembering personal histories, and demonstrations of your good character. Connecting and building a strong network thus becomes a both function of your level of power and a huge magnifier of it.
The book is organized around the model into three sections: Personal Power, Organizational Power, and Will Power. Along with chronicling the components of individual power and influence, Bacon gives consideration to how an organization as a whole gains power and influence and then loses it, gradually or in one spectacular mistake. Every chapter has a summary and a list of tough questions that together allow readers to assess their or her level of that type of power and what they might need to do to improve it. The book also has an appendix containing a detailed assessment and specific ways to build your powers.
Don’t be afraid of the book’s heft and small print-Bacon has mastered his “expressiveness” power in his ability to explain a somewhat nebulous topic in a way that is logical, organized, and clear. His brief profiles of well-known leaders are interesting and serve well as examples for his points. There are many books out there that will claim to help increase your ability to influence and persuade, but without having a full understanding of the principles underlying what makes power work, leaders will find that many of these superficial methods will fail.
Our only wish is that Bacon covered more specific influencing skills. Turns out he will, in a new book due out in July: Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead. Buy it.