The Elements of Power

Lessons on Leadership and Influence

The Elements of Power

Author: Terry R. Bacon
Pub Date: January 2011
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437285
Page Count: 320
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814415122

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Whether you are an individual contributor, a professional, a supervisor, a

midlevel manager, a senior executive, or the CEO, you must develop

enough power to be persuasive, to gain the agreement or cooperation of

others, and to stimulate action. Otherwise, you could not do your job. One

of the undeniable facts of life is that people who lack power exert very little

influence on others. Those who are powerful and use their power effectively

are the people who have impact. They get things done. They make a

difference. In the world at large, some people or groups amass the power

necessary to influence social trends, change minds, shape history, and create

or destroy great things, including social movements and nations. In the

business world, the most powerful people use their power to lead and

motivate others, build high-performing teams, manage projects, drive new

initiatives, develop new business and new enterprises, harness the creative

energies of groups, and guide organizations toward the successful

accomplishment of their mission. If you want to make a difference, you must

develop some strong sources of power.

It would be tempting to assume that all leaders need is the power

vested in them by virtue of their position, that the formal authority inherent

in their management role is sufficient. However, a quick look around

any organization will show that some leaders and managers are much more

influential than their peers—just as Bill Gates had more impact as CEO of

Microsoft than most CEOs have in their industries. Some leaders are more

credible, more visible, and more highly respected. Some, like Gates, Warren

Buffett, and Richard Branson, have influence far outside their organizations.

On a more modest scale, some midlevel managers have the CEO’s

ear and are considered rising stars. Others are less influential, despite their

positions and the formal authority they have by virtue of their roles. Moreover,

leading principally through the power and authority of a position is

passe´ today. As One-Minute Manager author Ken Blanchard has noted, ‘‘In

the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their

people. They no longer can lead solely based on positional power.’’

Some leaders are inspirational and motivating, capable of leading large

groups of people in new directions. Others struggle to build a following

and are never able to lead as capably in real life as they do in their dreams.

We could attribute the difference between more effective and less effective

leaders to differences in their skills, or situational differences, or just plain

luck. But this misses an important point. Today, effective leadership and

management is a function of influence, not command and control, and

influence is a function of power. It’s as simple as this: The more powerful

you are, the more influence you can have on others, and the more influential

you are, the more impact you are likely to have in your organization

and beyond. The formal authority vested in a management role is one

source of power, but it is not the only source. Moreover, it’s not the most

powerful source.

What makes a manager, leader, or executive powerful? For that matter,

what makes anyone powerful? How do leaders build their power bases?

How do they use them? And what can cause their power bases to be

diminished? These are important questions not only in business but in

everyday life. Since the dawn of humanity, people have been obsessed

with power, which is understandable, given the enormous impact power has

had in our collective history, our organizations, and our daily lives. Great

works of literature have explored power, among them The Iliad, Lord of the

Flies, Animal Farm, The Autumn of the Patriarch, and All the King’s Men. The

corrupting effect of power was one of Shakespeare’s principal themes (e.g.,

Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, and especially

Macbeth). And power has been an abiding concern of many psychologists

(Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and David McClelland),

philosophers (Niccolo` Machiavelli, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche,

Karl Marx, Steven Lukes, and Alvin Toffler), and business authors (Mary

Parker Follett, Lillian Gilbreth, Robert Greenleaf, Douglas McGregor, John

Kotter, Gary Yukl, Warren Bennis, Robert P. Vecchio, and Peter Drucker).

The aim of this book is not to recount all that has been written about

power, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge the extraordinary

amount of thought many insightful people have given to the topic. It has

been the subject of endless fascination, debate, and discussion through

the ages. Perhaps only love, death, and God have captivated the human

imagination as much as power.

In the modern era, and on a much more practical level, a number of

researchers have explored the role of power in organizations, particularly

in business. In a now-classic exploration of personal and organizational

power, social psychologists John R. P. French Jr. and Bertram Raven

published an essay in 1959 called ‘‘The Bases of Social Power.’’1 They

identified five sources of power (reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and

expert) and later added a sixth (information). Since then, numerous other

researchers have explored these sources of power, as well as power’s effects,

and identified additional sources of power that French and Raven did not.

The model of power and influence presented in this book is derived from

an extensive review of contemporary research on personal power and

organizational power and on the twenty years of original research I conducted

at Lore International Institute. My aims were to formulate a comprehensive

model of power and influence that could describe any act of leadership

or influence in any domain, and to describe that model in terms that people

in business and other walks of life could use to improve their ethical

use of power and understand and defend themselves against unethical uses

of power. This book focuses on power—what it is, where it comes from,

how it’s built, and how it is used to lead and influence others. In a companion

book, I will be discussing ethical and unethical forms of leadership

through influence.

In my model of power and influence, there are five sources of power

that stem from your position and participation in an organization: role

power; resource power; information power; network power; and reputation

power. Additionally, there are five sources of power that stem from your

personal assets: knowledge power; expressiveness power; attraction power;

character power; and history power, which derives from your history or

familiarity with the people you are trying to lead or influence. Finally, there

is one meta-source of power, will, which is related to the popular concept

of willpower. I refer to ‘‘will’’ as a meta-source of power because it can

have a substantial magnifying effect on all the other power sources.

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