Reflective Paper MGT 380 September 20, 2010 While there are many factors that make leaders successful, power and influence behaviors and my gender will affect my leadership success throughout my personal and professional life. Properly using power and influence as a leader in the workplace is important, especially for women who may have a harder time as leaders in the workplace. This essay will describe the specific ways that power and influence and gender issues affect on leadership and how I will apply them in my life. Power and influence behavior jointly determine leadership effectiveness (Yukl, 2010).
Power is what is used to influence people. There are a number of types of power and the type of power used depends on many variables and situations. The French and Raven classified types of power are Legitimate Power, Reward Power, Coercive Power, Expert Power and Referent Power. Other types of power are Information Power and Ecological Power. Legitimate Power is where the leader has authority over the work activities and the target person complies out of obligation. This type of power is widely used in organizations. Reward Power is defined as the target person complies in order to obtain rewards that the leader controls (Yukl, 2010, Pg. 54). Reward power is used in many organizations and in my experience is combined with legitimate power. Coercive Power is power typically used in the military or maybe in prisons it is where the leaders use punishments to control the followers and where strict rules and regulations are present and where discipline must be maintained. Expert power is where the leader is believed to have special knowledge and skills on how to perform the job tasks. In my experience this is where the leader or manager would have most likely trained the target persons on how to perform the tasks or has performed the tasks and job duties themselves.
In my last position at my current organization I reported to someone who taught me how to do everything he had learned. He trained me so he could spend more time on analysis rather than tasks. This worked really well and it was a positive environment to work in. The last of the French and Raven classifications of power is Referent Power, this is where the followers admire the leader and wants to stay in their favor and have their approval. This last type of power I have seen first hand in my department. The followers perform their tasks only to seek the approval of their manager.
They do not appear to care so much about the directives from the organization as a whole and only care what their leader’s wants or needs. I can see how this type of power is useful but I do not think overall that it is very practical in today’s organizations. Information power is where a person has control of or over crucial information within the organization. A leader or a subordinate can have this type of power. I have this type of power in my current position because I have been with the company longer than my manager.
However, she can be brought up to speed in most areas quickly because she is very smart. The last type of power is Ecological Power which is control over the physical environment, technology or structure of the work. I sense that most leaders possess some type of this power. In my organization the director level and above in management have the power to change their team’s environment, job duties and outcomes. Power equals influence and the more power a leader has the more influence she has over her followers and she will be more successful.
Maintaining and acquiring power is important for all leaders and even more important is not losing the acquired. A skilled leader should have no problem maintaining power but the amount of expertise a leader has may affect how much influence and power can be maintained. The Social Exchange Theory and Strategic Contingency Theory explain how power can be acquired and lost. The Social Exchange Theory is when there is social interaction that creates an exchange of benefits or favors; this is similar to a relationship with give and take. The exchanges may not be material; they can be in the form of approval and esteem.
This theory places high value on innovation and without it leaders can lose the ability to influence people and may encounter serious problems within their organization. Strategic Contingency Theory is more concerned with how subunits, not individual leaders gain or lose power. Both theories emphasize the importance of Expert Power. Increased Expert Power can result in increased Legitimate Power (Yukl 2010, Pg. 166). The more expertise a leader has the more likely they are to influence people and remain or are elected in positions of authority. The ability to acquire power and maintain it is probably the most important aspect of leadership.
Just because someone has been elected to CEO does not confer the right to lead nor guarantee loyalty from the organization and its followers (Porter, 2008). When a new CEO enters an organization, she may be an expert in her field but she will have to convey and prove this expertise to the organization. This I believe is where the Social Exchange Theory is most relevant. She will have to have initiative and be able to successfully implement her ideas to gain acceptance. As long as she can repeatedly demonstrate her expertise she will gain influence, loyalty and eventually authority.
The abuse and loss of power by a leader greatly affects the day-to-day progress of the organization. The amount of power a leader needs can be hard to identify because it depends on many variables. The abuse of power can also be a problem. In my own experience I have seen how leaders threaten people, albeit subtly and the response is not very successful. Followers end up with low morale and feel undervalued when they feel threatened. Followers are no longer motivated to complete their work. The leader will most likely be viewed as selfish and motivated by their needs and agenda.
It is easy for the leader to lose any influence they might have had over their followers. The circumstances really depend on the types of power the leader originally had with their followers. With strong Referent Power it might be hard for the leader to lose follower influence and loyalty even when others in the organization might be scrutinizing the actions of the leader. If overall power is lost, it can be difficult or impossible to gain it back. A leader loses credibility and influence and getting back on track takes away valuable time that could have been spent completing projects and tasks successfully.
According to Yukl, if the leader’s proposals prove to be a failure the exchange relationship is likely to be reassessed by the group (Yukl, 2010, Pg. 165). How the group perceives the failure of the leader is critical. Was the failure due to the leader being selfishly motivated or was the failure not due to any fault of the leader? Through the Social Exchange Theory the leader can regain power but again this consumes valuable time at the expense of the organization that frankly many organizations do not have much of to waste. In my current situation at work my manager possesses multiple types of power.
The types of power that she has are Expert, Legitimate and Referent Power. I believe that she has multiple types of power because she has strong managerial traits and skills. Her technical skills are extremely strong and she has the ability to teach herself what she needs to know to get the job done and be strategic. Her interpersonal are good and she handles various personality types properly. She deals with her subordinates in ways that make them feel valued. She also handles upper management professionally; she is often called upon when no one else can answer questions about the business.
Her conceptual skills are also exceptional. She can apply her education and knowledge to any situation and utilizes the resources she has to succeed and rarely does she accept failure on any project. She could by some be considered controlling as she seldom allows herself or her group to be anything but successful, even if she has to do the work herself. The Expert Power that my manager has is due to the fact that manages a group that possesses Expert Power. She is able to wield this power to get what she wants in terms of resources, whether this is people or influence.
She rarely makes rash statements or acts irrationally. She can manipulate most situations positively whether it is with her peers or amongst upper management. She acts in a caring and concerned way even with the smallest of tasks. She has Legitimate Power because she is the manager of the group and thus formal authority of the group. She uses this power as defined by Yukl, she makes polite clear requests, she does not exceed her scope of authority, unless it is necessary for task completion, she follows proper channels and explains the reasons for requests if she has them.
In my opinion these guidelines are innate to her; she is too young to have enough experience to have developed them over time. This is partly what makes her a strong leader. As far as Reward Power she has the authority to use it as needed and has not hesitated to use it if she feels it will benefit the situation. Some members in the group respond positively to Reward Power, they are the less mature group members. Examples of the types of rewards she offers are paying for lunch or allowing people to leave early and not dock their hours.
She does not use rewards to manipulate people but rather uses them to point out how people can perform their work to make their work life better. Others in the group respond more to Referent Power. I fall into the second group. I want to get my work done because I like my manager and want her to appreciate and value me. She is very good at using her warm personality to make you feel comfortable around her and she easily makes others feel like peers rather than subordinates. She is always upportive and she often defends her subordinates even to the point of saying that if any one of us were to be let go she would threaten to leave. She has such Expert Power that she could get away with this type of threat with her superiors. The department I work in has Expert Power and some Information Power. The Expert Power that the department has is knowledge and control over the forecasting portion of the business. Forecasting is a critical necessity to the function of our daily operations. It can be tedious; it is technical in nature and requires constant reviewing and updating of informational data.
Although the information is available to many within our data system, how the data is analyzed and managed can make or break the amount of revenue that the organization produces on a quarterly basis. The forecasts are worldwide not just regional, thus there is more than one area of the company relying on the accuracy of the data. The Information Power that the group has is control over information and how it is presented. The group produces reports that show various areas of the business and although the information is readily available to everyone the ability to convey the information properly is critical.
It is information that can be easily misconstrued and if this were to happen it causes serious financial issues. Our superiors rely heavily on the accuracy of this information and this provides our group with upward influence which in turn gives us a feeling of securing and stability with our jobs. Our group maintains our power by making sure the work is performed accurately, timely and professionally. As long as these criteria are met it would be difficult for the group to lose the power and influence we have with upper management.
I believe that due to the nature of the work and the Expert Power we possess we also have Referent Power over our superiors. They want us to be happy and for us to remain loyal to the company. Upper management is willing to do what is necessary to keep us happy even if through our manager. Gender issues in the workplace are unavoidable in my experience. I am a woman and my direct manager is a woman. Personally, I believe that because we are women we are better suited to perform and be successful at more tasks than men.
This may sound discriminatory but the successful outcomes that I constantly experience are due to women in the organization and their ability to multi tasks and think outside the box more often then the men. Discrimination in the workplace is very difficult to prove and usually does not benefit those being discriminated against. According to Yukl, some leadership behaviors are more male in nature than female and women are unwilling to utilize the behaviors. I believe that in many ways women are more suited to be leaders than men.
I cannot pinpoint exactly why but my experience has shown me that men who are strong leaders are strong leaders because they have women that help them be successful. According to Yukl, the values that women have may make them more suitable leaders. Women socialize across genders better than men and may be able to lead both sexes equally. Women have more intuition than men and intuition can be a valuable asset in business. Men use their gut or a “gut feeling” to guide many decisions. Gut decisions are more feeling than thinking, intuition for women is usually not a feeling but more a sense of how things should be or what will work.
In my experience in the workplace it is not that the male managers are more qualified or better suited to be leaders but rather that most leaders within the organization are male and are older and possibly more traditional in their response to women managers. The older men tend to have a “good ‘ol boy” mentality with ingrained biases that men are superior to women. Some of these issues may be that they are afraid or unsure of how to treat their female subordinates due to threats of sexual harassment or not really knowing how to work with women.
Women have traditionally been though to rule the personal side of life or home life whereas men rule the public, work realm of life. This type of traditionally thinking has been going on for centuries and to think it can be erased overnight would be dumb. Western society has been the trendsetter in this area and continues to break through the perceptions of women and men in the workplace. It could be multiple decades before the remaining societies in the world fully accept women in any leadership role. Women are punished in many of these societies for merely thinking.
Although the types of power and influence and gender issues will be major parts of my success in life, how I use the power and influence acquired will affect my overall leadership success. My gender may always be an issue throughout my career but there will be more and more strong women prevalent throughout my career as superiors and possibly subordinates. The knowledge I have learned in this course will most likely help me in the years to come. References Bowles, H. R. & McGinn, K. L. (2008) Gender in Job Negotiations: A Two-Level Game. Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School.
Retrieved September 3, 2010 from: http://hbswk. hbs. edu/item/5935. html Emerson, R. (1976). Social Exchange Theory. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 2, pp. 335-362. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from: http://www. jstor. org/stable/2946096 Porter, M. E. , Lorsch, J. W. & Nohria, N. (2008). The Seven Things That Surprise New CEO’s. Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from: http://hbswk. hbs. edu/item/6039. html Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th Ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.