This case study is based upon the conceptual article by Glenys M. Drew titled; ‘Enabling or Real power and influence in leadership’, in which “aims to provoke thought about power and influence in leadership.” Simply stated, power is our desire to have influence upon others, placing us within a particular social status. According to Lewicki, Barry, and Saunders (2010, p. 199), “people have power when they have the ability to bring about outcomes they desire or the ability to get things done the way they want them to be done.”
Influence is “the actual strategies and messages that individuals deploy to bring about desired attitudinal or behavioral change,” (Lewicki et al 2010, p. 220). In most relationships there is power imbalances, including an organization structured to flow in a top-down direction. This is known as formal power and influence such as between a boss and his or her subordinate. “The power imbalance in these relationships stems from the asymmetry in dependence between the parties, which contributes to an asymmetry in influence between the parties,” (Emerson, 1962, p. 37).
Problems Specified in the Case
“What constitutes real power and influence in leadership” is addressed and whether “coercive tactics of wielding power over others” is even necessary. It is contended that the opposite is true in that “demonstrating real power and influence in leadership” holds back “usurping power to work with and enable others to achieve worthwhile ends,” (Drew, 2010, p. 1).
Possible solutions presented by the Authors
The author explores three suggested solutions of enabling or real power and influence in leadership, each solution is accompanied by an element of paradox. The first suggests that “enabling or real power and influence does not usurp but serves.” The second is that an instinctual impulse of self-interest is diverted into a more socially acceptable interest for others and the intended goal. The third is that it fosters true engagement in leadership while positioning for growth for the self and others, (Drew, 2010).
In diverse coalitions, power and influence can be used to build a consensus.
Real power is the ‘power to empower’.
In diverse coalitions, power without influence can bring about negative results.
“Usurping power” and self-interest “tends to stultify and deny useful result,” (p. 7).
Opportunities exist for leaders to use power to influence guided thinking, not so much to solve problems for people but to engage people in solving problems.
Nothing is more important to building vital trust the prevalent state of leadership than that of credibility. A leader can lose credibility when power is misused and when strong professional will and humility are not found to be so effectual.
Author’s recommended solution
I agree with the author’s recommended solution that “genuine power and influence reverses the power paradigm, where the leader focuses primarily on the vision ahead more than (demonstrably) on self and partners with and enables others to reach shared goals,” (Drew, 2010, p. 2). Paradoxically, by enabling and empowering others with altruistic use of power and influence is a sign of “strength, rigor, and potentially rich outcomes” while wielding power just because one can, or for selfish reasons may on the surface seem “powerful” but could be displayed as weakness, stultification, and acquiring compromised outcomes.
The paradox that “the only power is no power” assists an argument that may be inferred that “self aggrandizing power, in its bid to grab power, ultimately reduces the self, while resisting the exercise of usurping power expands the self and increases one’s potential for productive influence and authority,” (Drew, 2010, p. 3). “Self-interest for the interests of the goal” are sublimated by real power and influence within the “paradoxical proposition that genuine power results from giving rather than taking,” (Drew, 2010, p. 5). Real power and influence displays strength, not weakness within the paradox proposed is that real power and influence “eschews ‘soft’, uncritical approaches in favor of rigor, building a ‘culture of discipline’,” (Drew, 2010, p. 8).
Emerson, R. M. (1962). “Power-Dependence Relations,” American Sociological Review 27, 31-40.
Drew, G. M. (2010). Enabling or “real” power and influence in leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 4(1), 47-58. doi:10.1002/jls.20154.
Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D.M. (2010). Negotiation (6th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.