The power they can’t take away

What power do you want, the power you are loaned or the power you own outright? Careful now, a lot rides on your answer…

There are two types of power, one is all yours for keeps, the other is theirs and is loaned on a temporary basis.
As this article describes, positional power is loaned by the organisation by means of a job role and position include:

  • formal power, the power to tell people what to do
  • reward power, the power to encourage people through rewarding desirable behaviour
  • coercive power, the power to discourage by punishing

Then there is the personal power that resides in the individual, including:

  • expert power, power that results from knowing
  • referent power, the power of personality eg, charm or charisma
  • connection power, the power of knowing the right people
  • information power, the power gained from the “grapevine”

The personal powers to me are all about learning, the ability “to know” and “to know-how” to use your knowledge. In command and control hierarchies the currency of power are the positional powers.
Command and control power is exercised through telling, telling through plans, telling through targets and telling through coercion of reward and punishment, express or under the table.  The personal powers gained through knowledge, especially of systems thinking, are a threat to the positional powers gained through job appointment as they are the direct opposite of this. They are embodied in the person, and gained by that person, not formally granted.  The power gained through knowledge is something that command and control often finds threatening, the informality of it, because it cannot be controlled. It can’t be taken away as punishment or granted as a reward. It exists outside of the formal power structure.  Think of the little boy who saw that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes at all, he saw it and shouted it out.  No-one granted him that power, it was his and he used it.

In a command and control organisation learning can be a revolutionary act as it challenges the telling. Especially learning about the system and why it is dysfunctional. The knowledge gained often threatens the norm as it is at complete odds with the telling that is coming through the hierarchy.

If you have a job your wages are being paid by a customer or a citizen not by your employer, they just handle the payroll. If you know, and if you know-how, you owe it to who-ever pays your wages to use your learning to help them.

Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the war.

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One Response to The power they can’t take away

  1. Pingback: 9 reasons why command and control organisations despise thinking | thinkpurpose

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