How to Manage Power?

“Americans, as a rule, are not very comfortable with power or with its dynamics… And this misunderstanding is becoming increasingly burdensome because in today’s large and complex organizations the effective performance of most managerial jobs requires one to be skilled at the acquisition and use of power.” – John P. Kotter

Though Kotter mentions only about Americans, I feel this statement is true for all managers in the entire world. We need to know how to manage powers by a) knowing what the powers are? & b) how to use them appropriately in the corporate world.

Consider this scenario:

You have been promoted as a manager in your organization, what powers do you think you will have by default?

Generally, an individual has two types of powers upon becoming a manager – the legitimate power of the position and the expert power that led to their appointment (this may not be true in some cases :-)).

Also, manager gets reward power and coercive (punishing) power which generally accompanies legitimate power. Thus, managers may have four of the five powers by default.

Though they are two different words with different meanings, one leads to the other & they are intertwined. Power is defined as the ability to exert influence over others while authority is the foundation on which that power is built. But power does not necessarily imply a commonly accepted authority to exert influence over others.

A person’s power depends to a considerable extent on how the person is perceived by others. In other words, power and authority come from the person being influenced – not the person in the more powerful position. If the follower chooses to not follow them, they are no longer leaders.

“Some people have more net influence than others and hence … more power.” – Larison

The power and influence theories explain leadership effectiveness in terms of the amount and type of power that leader possesses and how he or she exercises power. Undoubtedly, among the most popular and widely accepted concepts of social/organizational power is the five-fold typology developed by French and Raven in 1959.

In their article, French and Raven (1959) identified five bases of power which an agent, O, can exert over a person, P. Those bases of power were:

1. Reward power,

2. Coercive power,

3. Legitimate power,

4. Expert power, and

5. Referent power.

five forms of power

He also discussed about the sixth type of power – informational influence/power, which was not classified as one of the primary bases of power. Hence it is omitted in studies about the bases of power.

Legitimate power

* The power a leader has as a result of his or her position

* Subordinate’s most likely outcome is compliance

* How to use this power?

* Be cordial, polite, and confident

* make appropriate requests

* follow proper channels

* exercise power regularly and enforce compliance

Coercive power

* The power a leader has to punish or control

* Subordinate’s most likely outcome is resistance

* How to use this power?

* Inform subordinates of rules and penalties

* understand the situation before acting & warn before punishing

* administer punishment consistently & punish in private

Reward power

* The power to give positive benefits or rewards

* Subordinate’s most likely outcome is compliance

* comes as part of formal authority

* Influence over wages and promotions

* How to use this power?

* Verify compliance and accomplishments

* offer rewards for desired actions and behaviors

* offer credible rewards that are desired by subordinates

Expert power

* The influence/power a leader can exert as a result of his or her expertise, skills, or knowledge

* Subordinate’s most likely outcome is commitment

* How to use this power?

* Act confident and decisive

* keep informed

* don’t threaten subordinates’ self-esteem – be approachable

* Willing to share your knowledge with others

Referent power

* The power of a leader that arises because of a person’s desirable resources or based on charisma, admired personal traits

* Subordinate’s most likely outcome is commitment

* The referring individual voluntarily molds him or herself to the referent person

* How to use this power?

* Treat subordinates fairly

* defend subordinates’ interests

* be sensitive to subordinates’ needs & feelings

Finally, anyone knows about connectional power?

Though connectional power is not dealt under the bases of power, I think giving a brief idea about it at this place would be appropriate. Connectional power is a variation of referent power, which reflects the influence that leaders possess as a result of whom they know and the support they engender from others as a result.

Hayden suggests the following keys to exercise power effectively & successfully. They are to:

1) be sensitive to the sources of power and be consistent with the expectations of others;

2) recognize the costs, risks, and benefits of the different bases of power and draw on whichever is appropriate to the situation and person;

3) appreciate that each power base has merit;

4) possess career goals that allow development and use of each type of power;

5) act maturely and exercise self-control, avoiding impulses and egotistical displays; and

6) understand that power is necessary to get things done

Tuckman’s Forming Storming Norming Performing Developmental Model

We can find Bruce Tuckman’s Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing model, the most famous model for team development, has more relation to Tannenbaum & Schmidt’s Continuum theory and Situational Leadership Theory. Though he came up with four stages(forming-storming-norming-performing) in his initial publication in 1965, he added ‘Adjourning'(some refers this as ‘Mourning’) , to include team breaks after project completion, in later 1970s.

Tannenbaum & Schmidt Continuum theory explains the relationship between the levels of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by him. Resemblance between Continuum theory & this theory is in existence of different team developmental levels & movement between those levels as team develops.

Situational Leadership deals with the relationship between follower’s developmental level & leadership behavior(directive/supportive) based on the task/situation. SL resembles same structure if we represent the four stages in different quadrants.

Tuckman’s theory aims on the way in which a team handles a task from the initial formation of the team through to the completion of the project. Development level moves from one stage to the other sequentially as they mature as a team but time taken in each stage depends on understanding of and commitment to the goals of the team.

Forming Storming Norming Performing

The five stages of team development have been characterized as:


* Formation of team happens & the team comes together
* Members feel anxious and spend their time finding out about each other
* Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear
* Highly depending on the manager/leader
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Directing


* Team members come up with ideas through debates on how to proceed with the task
– about task priorities;
– clarity on purpose of the task;
– roles & responsibilities and
– processes to follow
* Influence of ideas and power struggles may arise
* Compromises may be required to enable progress
* Team members may challenge the leader & leader coaches
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Selling


* Work as a team starts
* Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted
* Team begin to exhibit participative behavior & decision making happens by group agreement
* Commitment, trust and unity increases
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Supporting


* This stage is characterized by high levels of:
– goal orientation,
– interpersonal relations,
– independence, motivation,
– knowledge and
– competence in team members
* Team know what,why & how of the task they are executing
* High level of respect in the communication between team members
* Team expects delegation of task instead of instruction/assistance
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Delegating


* Happens when project completes
* Members moving out of the group after project goal achievement
* Everyone can move on to new things
* Achievement celebrated
* Members feel difficulty as they have developed close working relationships with other team members

What does Tannenbaum & Schmidt Continuum Theory say?

In the past few decades, many leadership gurus came up with different definitions of leadership styles. Out of those theories, many of them are based on task – relationship characteristics. In 1938, Lewin and Lippitt proposed classifications of leaders based on how much involvement leaders placed into task and relationship needs.

Almost after four decades, in 1973, Tannenbaum & Schmidt came up with a continuum of earlier studies with range of leadership behaviors, ranging from manager-centered (task) to subordinate-centered (relationship).

Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum model shows the relationship between the levels of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by the manager. As we already discussed in Situational leadership, number of parameters goes into choosing the managerial style: manager’s competence, subordinate’s developmental level, the situation.

Based on the above parameters, level of delegation takes any one of the seven levels as depicted by the central arrow line.

tannenbaum schmidt continuum theory model
Tannenbaum & Schmidt concentrated more on delegation & freedom in decision making to subordinates and there by on the team development. As the team’s freedom increases, the manager’s authority decreases. This is a positive way for both teams and managers to develop. We already dealt delegating in  a different blog post.

Tannenbaum & Schmidt defined 7 levels of delegated freedom which moves from manager-oriented to subordinate-oriented. As team develops, level moves from one to the next – the area of freedom increases and the need for manager’s intervention decreases. Following levels are self-explanatory and easy to understand:

1. Manager takes decision and announces it – only manager plays the decision-making role; no team involvement

2. Manager decides and then “Sells” his decision to the team – no change in decision; but team may raise some concerns

3. Manager presents decision with background ideas for the decision and invite questions – team knows what options manager considered for his decision; more team involvement

4. Manager suggests provisional decision & invites discussion regarding the decision – team can have a say on manager’s decision; it can be changed based on discussion

5. Manager presents the problem or situation, get suggestions, then decides – team is free to come up with options; manager decides on those options

6. Manager explains the situation or problem, defines the parameters and asks team to decide on the solution – manager delegated whole thing to the team; but still manager is accountable for the outcome

7. Manager allows team to develop options and decide on the action, within the manager’s received limit – complete freedom level; team does all the work almost as what the manager does at level 1.

The main advantage of this theory: for leaders/managers – it defines the criteria for involvement and delegation & range of choices for the involvement.


Update on 08/16/2011 – Added Google Doc Presentation of this Article:

Schedule Network Analysis

Though projects use certain charting techniques like Bar, Milestone, Gantt to represent project schedules, they lack visualization of inter dependencies between different activities.

By constructing schedule networks, we can get inter dependencies between activities and can develop master schedule plan that provides up-to date schedule information about the project. Schedule network analysis is a technique that generates the project schedule.

In short, Schedule Network Analysis is the technique of identifying early and late start dates, as well as early and late finish dates, for the uncompleted portions of project schedule activities. [1]

It employs a schedule model and various analytical techniques, such as critical path method, critical chain method, what-if analysis, and resource leveling to calculate various project schedule information.

Schedule network provides:

* dependencies between activities,

* project completion date,

* analysis of the early and late start and finish dates,

* analysis of what-if scenarios,

* analysis of cost trade-off by crashing the schedule,

* analysis of applying leads and lags,

* analysis of slippage in project schedule

* analysis of scheduled start and finish dates for the uncompleted portions of project schedule activities

* graphical representation of the whole project from start to finish (master schedule plan)

We need to make following considerations before applying any of the analytical techniques

* adjustment should be made on any loops or open ends in schedule network for accurate calculation

* some network paths may have points of path convergence or path divergence that can be identified and used in schedule compression analysis or other analyzes

[1]. PMBOK® Guide – 3rd edition

Leader – Member Exchange (LMX) Theory

Every leader and follower are unique and work differently in different situations. Leadership is a relationship between leaders and followers, and building this relationship requires an appreciation for the personal values of those who would be willing to give their energy and talents to accomplish shared objectives. Various leadership theories evolved to define the leadership characteristics, traits & styles.

The Leader-Member Exchange theory (shortly LMX theory) occupies a unique position among leadership theories because of its focus on the dyadic relationship between leader and follower. LMX theory was originally called Vertical Dyad Linkage (VDL) theory by Dansereau, Graen & Haga in 1975.

You may have noticed your team leader or manager have more interactions with some of the team members. Also, they have tendency to give more responsibilities to these team members & consider them at first place for rewards and recognition. This tendency is central to LMX theory.

According to LMX Theory, in most leadership situations not every follower is treated the same by the leader. Leaders and followers develop dyadic relationships and leaders treat each follower differently, resulting in two groups of followers—an in-group and an out-group.

The in-group consists of a few trusted followers with whom the leader usually establishes a special higher quality exchange relationship.

The out-group includes the followers with whom the relationship of the leader remains more formal.

Leader - Member Exchange Theory

LMX is the only leadership approach to consider the dyadic relationship of leader and follower and the exchanges that determine organizational effectiveness. LMX theory asserts that leaders do not interact with subordinates uniformly because supervisors have limited time and resources. One of the implications of this theory is that the nature of the exchange is determined by the leader based on some presumed characteristics of the follower.

Followers get into one of these two groups based on:

* how well they work with the leader

* how well the leader works with them

* their personalities

* role responsibilities they assume

* follower’s competencies and accomplishments

‘In-group’ followers do their jobs in accordance with the employment contracts and can be counted on by the supervisor to perform unstructured tasks, to volunteer for extra work, and to take on additional responsibilities. Supervisors exchange personal and positional resources (inside information, influence in decision-making, task assignment, job latitude, support, and attention) in return for subordinates’ performance on unstructured tasks.

As a result of high LMX relationship, we can achieve increased

* mutual trust,

* confidence,

* job satisfaction,

* organizational commitment,

* common bonds,

* open communication,

* independence,

* respect, rewards & recognition

In contrast, followers who perform only in accordance with the prescribed employment contract are characterized as ‘out-group’ with limited reciprocal trust and support, and few rewards from their supervisors. Subordinates in the Out-Group may be new to an organization.

“When leaders and followers have good exchanges, they feel better, accomplish more, and the organization prospers”Northouse

High-quality exchanges brings positive organizational outcomes such as innovation, empowerment, positive job climate, and organizational citizenship behavior. So, a leader should look for ways to build trust and respect with all of their subordinates, thus making the entire work unit an in-group. When the relationships between leaders and subordinates are all high-quality, “the goals of the leader, the followers, and the organization are all advanced”

Update on 08/16/2011 – Entire Information in a Google Doc Presentation Format:

Learning Styles for better leadership

Learning is an important characteristic of leadership. Leaders should be fast learners. Leaders need to understand learning ability of followers and change the style of education to make them understand the vision or purpose.

Different people have different ways to learn things. There is no right or wrong way in learning styles. Some people see things and understand. Some people do experiments to learn. Some people may just think and correlate. Leaders spend most of the time in understanding follower’s development levels, and change their teaching methods to educate them based on that.

Learning improves the working ability which in turn gives out the expected outcome, which is otherwise called as improved performance. Even those who fail to understand by one approach of learning, can understand things well if we change the learning style.

Number of theories evolved in learning styles like Kolb Experiential Learning theory, Honey & Mumford Learning Styles, Allinson & Hayes. These learning style models designed on Learning styles are both flexible and stable.

Out of these let me brief Kolb’s experiential learning. Kolb produced the first systematic and comprehensive exposition of the theory of experiential learning. His experiential learning theory has wide acceptance by academics, teachers, managers and trainers as truly seminal works. It explains fundamental concepts towards our understanding and explaining human learning behavior, and towards helping others to learn.

‘Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it’ – David Kolb

So, Experience + Understanding = Knowledge

Below picture depicts general learning cycle of individual learner:

General Learning Cycle

Kolb proposes that experiential learning has six characteristic features:

1. Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes.

2. Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience.

3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically (debating) opposed modes of adaptation to the world.

4. Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world.

5. Learning involves transactions between the person and the environment.

6. Learning is the process of creating knowledge which is the result of the transaction between social knowledge and personal knowledge

Kolb describes the process of experiential learning as a four-stage cycle.

Kolb\'s Experiential Learning Theory

The converging style (abstract, active)

* relies primarily on abstract conceptualization(AC) and active experimentation(AE);

* is good at problem solving, decision making and the practical application of ideas;

* does best in situations like conventional intelligence tests;

* is controlled in the expression of emotion and prefers dealing with technical problems rather than interpersonal issues.

The diverging style (concrete, reflective)

* emphasizes concrete experience(CE) and reflective observation(RO);

* is imaginative and aware of meanings and values;

* views concrete situations from many perspectives;

* adapts by observation rather than by action; interested in people and tends to be feeling-oriented.

The assimilating style (abstract, reflective)

* prefers abstract conceptualization(AC) and reflective observation(RO);

* likes to reason inductively and to create theoretical models;

* is more concerned with ideas and abstract concepts than with people;

* thinks it more important that ideas be logically sound than practical.

The accommodating style (concrete, active)

* emphasizes concrete experience(CE) and active experimentation(AE);

* likes doing things, carrying out plans and getting involved in new experiences;

* good at adapting to changing circumstances;

* solves problems in an intuitive, trial-and-error manner;

* at ease with people but sometimes seen as impatient and ‘pushy’.

Learning styles play a significant role in different fields – mainly in educational, professional career and adaptive competencies. The most relevant field to explore experiential learning theory is that of educational specialization.

Following words by Kolb tells us the need for knowing learning styles:

‘Learning styles represent preferences for one mode of adaptation over the others; but these preferences do not operate to the exclusion of other adaptive modes and will vary from time to time and situation to situation’.

A learning style is a ‘differential preference for learning, which changes slightly from situation to situation. At the same time, there’s some long-term stability in learning style’

To summarize the benefit, successful projects need to employ a range of learning styles to capitalize on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of each style & it helps leaders to setup good coaching relationship.

What-if Scenario Analysis

Let me start with a typical real-life example:

Your wife is asking you to take her out.

You are planning to go to the latest movie in a nearby movie theater.

First thing that come in your mind would be – “What do I do if all tickets are sold out before we reach the theater?”

Oh, no! It is going to be a big fight in the night then.

Now, jump into preparing mitigation plan.

In case tickets are not available, shall I take her to a park or mall? will that make her happy?

Like the one mentioned above, every day, for every activity which we perform, we have this proactive question – “What if the situation represented by scenario ‘X’ happens?” This What-If Scenario Analysis(shortly WISA) becomes our part of life and we ask this question till the end of life. Businesses use what-if scenarios to determine the effect different costs or investments have on profit and other financial indicators.

In businesses and projects, unanticipated adversities makes the business or project unstable and proactive handling of these uncertainties is required. With what-if scenario analysis, Project Manager & Project management team

* can evaluate the feasibility of completing the project under unfavorable conditions,

* prepare contingency and response plans to avoid or overcome the worst scenario,

* mitigate the impact of uncertain or unexpected situations

WISA (sometimes referred as deterministic simulation) used mainly in project analysis and schedule development. A schedule network analysis is performed using the schedule model to compute the different scenarios like delayed delivery of a major deliverable, impact of external factors such as a strike or change in the shipping procedures & processes, extending duration of certain specific activity under certain circumstances.

With different sets of activity assumptions, dozens of project schedule can be prepared through simulation.The most common simulation technique is Monte Carlo Analysis, in which a distribution of possible activity durations is defined for each schedule activity and used to calculate a distribution of possible outcomes for the total project. Early start/early finish, late start/late finish dates can be simulated.

To simulate what-if scenario analysis, number of tools are available in Excel. Following are the few links to them

1. Markham, I. S. and S.W. Palocsay (2006), “Scenario Analysis in Spreadsheets with Excel’s Scenario Tool,” INFORMS Transactions on Education, Vol. 6, No 2,

2. Using scenario manager to evaluate what-if questions-

3. Add Muscle to “What-If” Analyses BY JAMES A. WEISEL –