Globalization A universal definition of the word power implies agreement about the word that does not change according to varying values, theories, or personal philosophies. To that end, power can be defined as: the ability to get all you want from the environment, given what is available. This definition can be applied to power in any context (e.g., military, organizational, political, personal, intimate, etc.). The definition is composed of three parts, each of which requires a brief explanation. First, power is cast in terms of a single human dimension, the individuals ability. This places total responsibility for obtaining what is wanted on the shoulders of the person who wants it.
To the extent that you have gained an objective, you will be regarded as having been powerful. If, however, you have been less than successful in your attempt, rather than asking, Why won’t these people cooperate?, it is far more appropriate to ask, How did I stop myself from getting what I wanted? For example, if all members of a group suddenly become unresponsive in the middle of a team-building session, it is much more productive for the facilitator to look for clues that he or she may have missed, rather than to castigate the group members for being low risk-takers or betrayers of the intervention. Second, the object of power is not focused on other people, but on obtaining something of value to you. This could be a personal desire such as being successful or being attractive, or it could be a successful outcome for a client or an organizational problem to be solved. Power is not an end in itself, but a process that has relevance only in terms of gaining results or achieving objectives.
It is the outcome that is important. In this light, power can be measured objectively in terms of track records, i.e., number of things attempted against number of things gained. Power is an intrapersonal phenomenon. You cannot empower or disempower someone else; nor can anyone else empower or disempower you. Although power can be viewed as the ability to gain compliance or support from other people, this is not a necessary element.
The pursuit of power for its own sake has little to recommend it as a healthy or productive pastime. Without a clear objective in mind, the pursuit of power for its own sake makes as much sense as the pursuit of oats when one owns neither a horse nor an oatmeal factory. The third element in the definition of power relates to the last phrase: given what is available. One of the most important premises underlying the effective use of power is that each individual has responsibility for, and control of, him or herself. To exercise power effectively, you must first ascertain what you want. Next, you must be willing to take full responsibility for getting it.
However, you must also be able to determine whether what you want is available from the environment. Although you are totally responsible for the desire for something and for its pursuit, you have no responsibility for its availability. This is a very important distinction. For example, suppose that you want a particular expert to work with your group. You call this person and find out that he simply is not available.
From that point on, any further pursuit of this particular objective is not an exercise in power but a venture in futility. That is, the limiting factor is not an overestimation of your power but, rather, an inaccurate assessment of what is available at this time. Finally, although attempting something and not achieving it reflects a lack of power in that situation, to want something and not to attempt to achieve it is the ultimate in powerlessness. Power has several identifying characteristics. They are as follows. Power Is Uniquely Expressed.
Despite numerous myths concerning what a powerful person looks like, there is no one way to express power. The strong, charismatic leader who charges ahead and is successful is no more powerful than his three-year-old daughter who crawls into his lap, puts her arms around his neck, murmurs, Daddy, please. . . and gets what she wants. Power is expressed in an infinite number of ways because each person is unique.
The only requirement for the effective expression of power is that it be authentic, that is, that the expression of power is characteristic of the individual. Power Implies Risk. Whenever one attempts to gain something, a potential risk or cost is involved. A few of the possible costs or risks associated with power are risk of failure, loss of prestige, and loss of alternative opportunities. Power Is Neutral.
Power is neither good nor bad; unfortunately, some managers pursue power because it is good, and some leaders avoid it because it is bad. If good and bad are relevant in any sense, it is in the judgment of the thing that is wanted, not in the ability to obtain it. Power Is Existential. The only time and place that power can ever be expressed is in the present. Your capacity to successfully pursue an objective is contingent on your ability to stay aware and responsive to changing conditions within yourself and the environment.
The moment you start worrying about how things should be or about what might happen rather than attending to what is happening, you have lost the ability to make an impact. All Power Resides in Conscious Choice. Of primary importance is the realization that the power is actualized in the conscious act of choosing. The particular choice that one makes at any given time is of secondary importance. Furthermore, locking oneself into a fixed position, value, or attitude, regardless of changing conditions or present circumstances, precludes choice and, thus, limits power.
Two choices (i.e., yes or no) are better than one, but still not good enough because both are reactive. An either/or strategy frequently results in internal deadlock, increased frustration, and subsequent loss of effectiveness. The minimum number of choices needed for a full expression of power is three. This implies the ability to freely generate another option, which places one in a position of independence. The choices then become Yes, I will, No, I won’t, and I will under the following circumstances. When blocked, regardless of the situation, one’s power depends on one’s ability to generate a minimum of three alternatives and then to consciously choose among them.
One of the major problems in working comfortably with power is that power is frequently confused with, or mistaken for, other concepts. These concepts are: authority, leadership, manipulation, intimidation, and domination. It is important that leaders and managers distinguish between these concepts and power. Authority. Power is the ability to obtain what you want, whereas authority can be defined as the organizational right to attempt to obtain what you want. Power and authority differ in several ways.
The function of power is to obtain specific objectives, whereas the function of authority is to protect the integrity of the organization. For example, authority determines who reports to whom, areas of accountability, rules and regulations that are responsive to the needs of the organization, and so on. Authority is used only as a last resort to get things done. Whenever a manager relies on authority rather than power (e.g., Do it because Im the boss and I said to do it!), that manager has di …