3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Definition of Power
Power has been seen as the ability to ensure compliance despite resistance from the individual involved. It is the ability to compel or influence others to do what they would otherwise not do. A person who has power can impose his will on others. He can do this by the use of threat of punishment if they disobey him. Power is exercised in all human relationship. For example, teachers have power over their students. Also, parents have power over their children.
Power is a key aspect of any managerial post, and springs from a variety of sources. Legge (1973) describes power as “(the) capability of exercising influence over the attitudes and/or behaviour of other individuals or group”. This is a useful definition since it emphasises the capability of exercising influence. In other words, power does not necessarily rely either on formal authority, i.e. power granted by the organisation to a particular ‘ position-holder. Power is more of matter of what a person does, or is potentially capable of doing, to influence others. Thus, a trade union representative who successfully persuades a group of work mates to stop work has exercised power, regardless of whether he had any authority to do so under his union’s rule.
3.2 Roles of Power
An understanding of role is vital to the effective performance of any job, because it enables the job-holder to assess his or her power position. A role may be defined as:
‘the set of expectations held by the individuals concerned and those about them concerning how a job or task is to be performed.’
A role needs to be distinguished from a position, or job, which is primarily a statement of duties an individual has been allocated. The job description is merely the script, but the role is the way the script is acted out.
The various forms of power that are available to managers have been described by Handy (1985) as follows:
Physical Power – this is the capability of using physical force to achieve influence. An unlikely source of power for a manager, but a lockout is one such manifestation.
Resource Power – ‘the possession of valued resources’, as Handy puts it. Examples include control over salary and promotion prospects. This form of power is less available to managers in large bureaucracies, where such issues are dealt with in accordance with centrally-directed procedures.
Position Power – this is the power of office or position, as described by Weber. It refers to the rights written into the particular position (to allocate work, assess performance, etc.). Position power relies closely on resource power. However, it does give access to what Handy calls ‘invisible assets’, i.e. information, rights of access to key groups, and the right to organise work.
Expert Power – this arises from the possession of acknowledged expertise. This is power which, in effect to a position by those over whom it is to be used. Expert’s power only exists if other people recognise it and value it.
Personal Power – this is the power of personality (charisma). Like expert power, it is only effective when it is recognised by those concerned.
Negative Power – this is the power to stop things happening, for example. Even lowly members of an organisation may have this form of power. It finds expression in the filtering or distorting of information. It tends to surface at times of low morale.
Describe the forms of power known to you.
The possession of power, however achieved, is one thing. The use of power is another. As Legge puts it:
‘.. .he (the manager) also needs sufficient political sensitivity to know how to relate the resources available to him to interests that are salient to those he wishes to influence’.
This political sensitivity represents the subjective dimension of power and on this the perception of one’s role is crucial.
In this unit, we have dealt with the concept of power, and relationship between roles and power. Power has been described, as stated by Legge (1978) as the capability of exercising influence over the attitudes and/or behaviour of other individuals or groups. For your information, you should note that power is exercised when potential power wielders, motivated to achieve certain goals of their own, marshal in their power base resources (physical power, resource power, position power, expert power, personal power and negative power) that enable them to influence the behaviour of respondents by activating motives of respondents relevant to those resources and to these goals. This is done in order to realise the purpose of the power wielders, whether or not those are also the goals of the respondents.
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
- What do you understand by the term “Power”?
- Describe the forms of power known to you.