Five Types of Power

the five types of power - Five Types of Power

We have already discussed how Interpersonal and Team Skills are important. We talked about how it all boils down to the ability of influencing others through soft skills. Soft skills are closely related to leadership skills and, as a Project Manager, you need to use these skills throughout the entire project. However, during the Develop Team process you are required to lead the team through their work and thus these skills take a center stage here.

As a leader, you have to wield power. What does all this have to do with PMP you ask? Well the PMP exam focuses on a research done by two social psychology researchers named French and Raven. They came up with five different kinds of power that people use to influence others. You will find yourself using one or the other of these five.

1. Legitimate Power

This is the power you use when assigning work to the team. Simply put, as a boss, you have the legitimate power to tell your team members what they should be doing. If you are wondering how to use this power in a matrix environment, the answer is you cannot. You need to use other kinds of power

2. Reward Power

Can you award a bonus or any other kind of rewards to your project team members? If yes, this is known as reward power. This works best when rewards are tied to project goals and priorities. An important point to note is that the reward has to be fair. You cannot select one team member for a reward without giving others a chance at it. Another point to note is that making the entire team compete for a single reward isn’t fair either. This can actually be a demotivating force. Think of something like allotting $500 reward to all team members if the quality standards in the spec are met

3. Expert Power

You can earn a lot of credibility by the virtue of experience and expertise in a specific domain. This is expert power. If you were one of the best software programmers back in the day, your development team is going to take your instructions much more earnestly

4. Referent Power

Ever wondered why celebrities appear in mobile phone or car ads? They are by no means experts in the technologies behind those products but this is precisely what referent power is all about. Your charisma makes people loyal to you. People admire you and would want to do what you do. Quite frankly you are part of the ‘cool crowd’. An example could be that you are trusted by the people in authority. If you can have coffee with the CEO every month, you can comeback and exercise referent power!

5. Punishment Power

No points in guessing what this is all about. Punishment power is the authority to correct a team member for poor behavior. This should always be done in a one-on-one conversation and in private. Exercising this power in front of others could even be counterproductive. Note that you can make use of this power even in matrix environment. An example could be an escalation email to a tester’s manager

Below are some examples for practice,

The designers always listen to their team lead, he was the best architect back in the day
Expert Power

We are behind schedule due to slow progress. We will be working on weekends until we catch up
Punishment Power

A functional manager assigns a coder to work on a new project
Legitimate Power

The team always does what Brian says because everyone knows that the executive management loves him
Referent Power

The project manager has set up a “wall of fame” that has awards posted for the team members that are ahead of schedule for their respective modules
Reward Power

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