There are many different power bases that a leader can use and exploit.
These include problematic ones such as the power of position, the power to give rewards, the power to punish and the power to control information. While these types of power do have some strength, they put the person being lead in an unhealthy position of weakness, and can leave leaders using these power bases looking autocratic and out of touch.
More than this, society has changed hugely over the last 50 years. Citizens are individually more powerful, and employees are more able to shift jobs. Few of us enjoy having power exerted over us, and many will do what they can to undermine people who use these sorts of power.
However there are three types of positive power that effective leaders use: charismatic power, expert power and referent power .
This article teaches the technique of building expert power.
Expert power is essential because as a leader, your team looks to you for direction and guidance. Team members need to believe in your ability to set a worthwhile direction , give sound guidance and co-ordinate a good result.
If your team perceives you as a true expert, they will listen to you when you try to persuade them or inspire them. And if your team sees you as an expert, you will find it much easier to energize and motivate them:
Taken together, if your team sees you as an expert, you will find it much easier to motivate team members to perform at their best.
So how do you build expert power?
The first step is fairly obvious (if time consuming) – build expertise . And, if you are already using tools like the information gathering tool , chances are that you have already progressed well ahead in this direction.
But just being an expert isn't enough, it is also necessary for your team members to recognize your expertise and see you to be a credible source of information and advice. Gary A. Yukl, in his book "Leadership in Organizations," details some steps to build expert power. These are:
Promote an image of expertise: Since perceived expertise in many occupations is associated with a person's education and experience, a leader should (subtly) make sure that subordinates, peers, and superiors are aware of his or her formal education, relevant work experience, and significant accomplishments.
One common tactic to make this information known is to display diplomas, licenses, awards, and other evidence of expertise in a prominent location in one's office – after all, if you've worked hard to gain knowledge, it's fair that you get credit for it. Another tactic is to make subtle references to prior education or experience (e.g., "When I was chief engineer at GE, we had a problem similar to this one"). Beware, however, this tactic can easily be overdone.
Avoid threatening the self-esteem of subordinates: Expert power is based on a knowledge differential between leader and team members. Unfortunately, the very existence of such a differential can cause problems if the leader is not careful about the way he exercises expert power.
Team members can dislike unfavorable status comparisons where the gap is very large and obvious. They are likely to be upset by a leader who acts in a superior way, and arrogantly flaunts his greater expertise.
In the process of presenting rational arguments, some leaders lecture their team members in a condescending manner and convey the impression that the other team members are "ignorant." Guard against this.
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