The Blog by Mark Murphy and Leadership IQ website

Mark Murphy / Leadership IQ Blog

Why Smart Leaders Don't Rely On Their Job Title For Power

"Do it because I'm the boss and I said so" is a type of Formal Power. It's power that comes from having a formal title in the organizational hierarchy. It's common, and it can work sometimes, but saying "I'm the boss" gets old VERY quickly.

It tells employees that "I have power and you don't," and that can be utterly demoralizing and demotivating.

Career Note: When a manager says, "Do it because I'm the boss" more than once a quarter, that manager is usually in trouble (high turnover, low engagement, poor results, etc.).

By contrast, good executives are 20% more likely to use Informational Power than supervisors and managers. Informational power comes from delivering compelling reasons and persuasive information about why employees should do something. Informational power is gentle, motivating, and even inspiring. (That's why it's a core part of what I teach in The Leader As Coach course). 

How To Get Informational Power

Information power typically comes from two sources. First, it results from having information that others haven't seen. If you've read the latest industry forecast, and no one else on the team has read it, you've got information that they don't have. And that gives you power.  Second, information power comes from delivering persuasive and compelling reasons why someone should do a particular thing. 

Real-Life Example

Imagine that your company is implementing new technology, and your employees are generally resisting the change.

You could (wrongly) try to force the change with Formal Power:

"Listen folks, this new software is not optional. You're going to have to use it. Period. This is not a request; it's a formal directive."

Ugh. That doesn't feel very compelling, does it? I can feel myself resisting just out of spite.

Now imagine that you use Information Power instead:

"Hey gang, you know how the company is looking at installing the new XYZ software? I've been digging into the reports that not many people have seen yet, and it turns out that this new software could solve one of our biggest complaints. It ports our data through every single interface, so we no longer have to flip back-and-forth between screens. Let me show you some examples I grabbed from some other companies using it...[Shows examples]... I'd love for our department to be one of the pilot groups so we can all see its capabilities with our own eyes. And also give our candid feedback. We need some volunteers. Who's in?"

That takes an extra 60 seconds to say, but oh my gosh, that is so much more compelling.

Your Next Steps

Using softer power is ultimately more powerful than issuing commands and directives. It's a key part of developing a "coaching style" of leadership. And if you want a ready-made toolkit, check out the course The Leader As Coach.

 

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