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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.


Posted by Mark Murphy on 13 February, 2024 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_12, sb_ad_13, sb_ad_14, sb_ad_15 | Read more →

One Sentence Improves Accountability

Posted by Mark Murphy on 30 January, 2024 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_12, sb_ad_13, sb_ad_14, sb_ad_15 | Read more →

Financial Wizardry With ChatGPT




Posted by Mark Murphy on 17 January, 2024 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_12, sb_ad_13, sb_ad_14, sb_ad_15 | Read more →

Tip: This ChatGPT Hack Summarizes Entire Presentations In Seconds

This tip is presented by Mark Murphy, New York Times bestselling author and Founder of Leadership IQ.


Posted by Mark Murphy on 19 December, 2023 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_10, sb_ad_11, sb_ad_12 | Read more →

If You Want To Be More Charismatic, Stop Saying This Word

If you want to be more charismatic, one of your primary tasks is to make the people listening to you feel absolutely terrific. Now ask yourself, to make the people around you feel great, "Should I talk more about myself or more about them?"

Posted by Mark Murphy on 23 February, 2023 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_5, sb_ad_6 | Read more →

Referent Power

Referent power is a type of social power that is obtained in a person over time because they have admirable qualities, attitudes, skills, and a solid reputation. A person with referent power has influence because they are admired, respected, or even idolized. Learn more and take the power quiz!
Posted by Mark Murphy on 14 February, 2023 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_5, sb_ad_6 | Read more →

Coercive Power

Coercive power is a type of threatening power.  Coercive power is, by definition, the ability of someone or some group to control or influence others through the use of threats, punishment, or physical force. Learn more and take the power quiz!
Posted by Mark Murphy on 06 February, 2023 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_5, sb_ad_6 | Read more →

The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is a concept that was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in the 1969 book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.  It is a principle of organizational management that basically states that employees within a hierarchical organization tend to be promoted and promoted, until they reach the point where they no longer have the skills necessary for the role that they are assigned, and are no longer competent.
Posted by Mark Murphy on 06 February, 2023 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_5, sb_ad_6 | Read more →

Never Bring Your Boss Only One Solution To A Problem

Whenever you're pitching your boss (or a customer or a colleague) a solution to a problem, NEVER bring them only one solution.

It sounds strange, but offering only one solution can drastically increase your frustration and stress. And it significantly damages your problem-solving and creative abilities!

Watch the video to learn how this works, and what to do instead!




Posted by Mark Murphy on 13 January, 2021 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_5, sb_ad_9 | Read more →

3 Phrases That Great Presenters DON’T Say


Whenever you make a presentation, you want to use really concrete words.

Allan Paivio is the scientist who pioneered the concept of concrete words. In one of my favorite studies, Paivio analyzed peoples’ ability to remember concrete words vs. abstract words.

Concrete words have high “imagery value,” that is you can picture that to which they refer For example, words like road, bridge, clown and even picture, are all pretty concrete. But words like condition, amount, request and purpose are all pretty abstract.  

Abstract words/phrases also include "core competencies," "strategic vision," and "value added." And that's why the best presenters avoid those phrases (and others like them)!

Paivio paired concrete nouns and adjectives and tested them against paired abstract nouns and adjectives, to see which words were easier to recall.

In every case, recall was better for concrete word pairs than it was for abstract word pairs. It’s just easier to remember “happy clown” and “spittle-flecked lips” than it is “essential nutrient” or “significant result.” In fact, and this is critical, you’ll remember totally unrelated concrete word pairs way better than you’ll remember related abstract word pairs.

Across Paivio’s experiments, concrete words could be remembered as much as 2-3 times more frequently than the abstract words.

Now here’s the real kicker; almost every presenter in business suffers from abstract word disease. Let me share some of the actual abstract word pairs tested in Paivio’s study:

  • Complete set
  • Annual event
  • Useful purpose
  • Original finding
  • Critical condition
  • Reasonable request
  • Constant attention
  • Adequate amount
  • Significant result
  • Possible guess

If you’ve ever sat through a corporate presentation, I guarantee you’ve seen word pairs like this (if not these exact ones). Over and over again people deliver presentations using abstract language. Then they look around bewildered as to why nobody remembers what they said. And the reason is because they are using language that is guaranteed not to be remembered.

Think about how many times you've sat through presentations using abstract words/phrases like "core competencies," "strategic vision," and "value added." It's tough to remember what was said in those presentations because the language was so abstract!  

I’ve had the word choice conversation with a lot of CEOs. And while hundreds of them have gotten it no problem, there are thousands more that failed to achieve “significant results” on their goal-setting memos because they obtusely refused to give “constant attention” to this issue. See how easy it is to slip in that abstract language without even noticing? It’s a disease. If you want presentations that people actually remember, you had better address your abstract word disease and fast.

So the next time you’re about to give a presentation, ask yourself this question: Could the people listening to me draw a picture of what I’m saying?



Posted by Mark Murphy on 11 January, 2021 no_cat, no_recent, sb_ad_30, sb_ad_4, sb_ad_5 | Read more →
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