From PMP point of view, you should know the Five Types of Power, a topic in Resource Management knowledge area. But on real life projects, you would need to know much more than these Five Types of Power. In fact there is a fantastic book on this topic that you can grab called 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.
The Power Dynamics within your project team is likely to be much more complex. All stakeholders have their own goals and agendas. The project decisions are influenced to suit these goals and agendas. One of the most important ways that can help you declutter your project’s situation and understand the position of your stakeholders is through identifying the type of power your stakeholders are wielding.
This power is the byproduct of the position or role that someone is playing. This is the power that your CEO possesses.
This is the power of knowing stuff that others need. SMEs are a good example of possessing this type of power.
This is the power that someone possesses due to their credibility. Sometimes referent power overlaps with Personal or Charismatic Power which means someone has an influence over you because you like them. A good example is celebrities doing ads for cars and mobile phones without being an expert themselves.
This is the power that someone possesses when they can deal with a specific situation and you need their help. If a fire breaks out, the firemen have the most power and everyone present there follow their commands.
This is the power that someone possesses just because they know the right people or powerful people. If you know a politician or someone in authority, others consider you to have relational power. Think of this from your project or organization’s point of view.
Ever heard of the saying, “Knowledge is Power”? This is exactly that power, the power that comes with the virtue of the knowledge you possess. This could be something as simple as the power possessed by the best developer in your project team.
When you have influence over others just because you can reward them, you have reward-oriented power. Note that the reward should be something that others want like a $500 bonus.
Punitive or Coercive Power
When you have influence over others just because you can punish them, you have punitive or coercive power. You writing an escalation email to a tester’s manager is an example of punitive or coercive power.
When someone has influence over you because they tell you how good you are, that’s ingratiating power. This basically means someone pleases you to gain a favor and you are influenced because you like being pleased.
This is the power that a person exerts by appealing your sense of honor or duty just to get you to do what they want. You would feel guilty if you don’t comply. Politicians are a good example.
This is the power of rational argument. When a person uses rational arguments to change your mind, she is using the power of persuasion. The Project Manager needs to be really good at this if she doesn’t possess any other powers as this is one of the best ways to establish influence.
This is more of a psychological trick. When someone withdraws involvement from a situation just to get the desired behavior, she is exercising the power of avoiding. It is likely that your mom used this in your childhood.
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