The Essence of Power
Poor Tom Sawyer "SATURDAY morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was song in every heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step." With thirty yards of board fence nine feet high, a bucket of whitewash, and a long-handled brush it appeared Tom would be working under the watchful eye of his Aunt Polly while his friends would come "tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions". He became discouraged quickly, until he devised a plan... Make the work look like a rare and privileged opportunity to have fun and accomplish a difficult task. First it was Ben who surrendered his apple for his chance to whip the brush. Then Billy Fisher gave up his kite and Johnny Miller his dead rat. "The retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents". It was early in chapter two of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that Tom discovers his keen ability to get others to willingly do something he wants them to do. It is here that he first discovers the Essence of Power!
Throughout history many leaders have exercised their abilities to make things happen in ways they wanted. In organizations, leaders who are able to get the behavioral responses they desire have great influence and the type of power they commonly use is Position Power. This power is in the hands of individuals based solely on their positions with the company or organization.
There are six popular bases of Position Power. Reward Power makes use of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards in order to control behavior. Rewards can consist of cash, promotions, and compliments, and by dangling the proverbial carrot; the power to control behavior rests squarely in the hands of the one making the offering. Coercive Power on the other hand, denies rewards and administers punishment in order to gain control over others. Legitimate Power gives the boss "right of command" and this traditional method of controlling subordinates has proven to be very effective. Organizational and military hierarchies where rank establishes command are both examples of legitimate power. Process Power is the control over methods of both production and analysis. Informational Power is power that involves the access to and/or the control over important information. Important files are kept under lock and key, and those privy to such information are usually those who have been trusted with the power. Representative Power gives an individual permission to speak as a representative of the organization to department heads or those outside the company.
Conversely, Personal Power is not associated with organizational position; it refers to the power of the individual. Many of the greatest leaders throughout history have possessed this type of power. These effective leaders can be very persuasive, are often described as charismatic and having great presence, and have found many willing followers remain loyal even after changes in organizational leadership take place.
Expert Power is the power to control another's behavior using knowledge, experience, or judgment. It appears one of the most effective ways to gain power is to establish superiority over others by proving intellectual worth.
Rational Persuasion is not too unlike Tom Sawyer's ability to control the behavior of his friends by offering them an opportunity to achieve a goal (painting Aunt Polly's fence) and providing them with a reasonable method (whitewashing) to complete the task.
Referent Power is one's ability to control another's behavior simply because they want to identify with the source of power. Many individuals become effective followers in an effort to increase their own personal power through an association with individuals who have already established it.
Making organizations more innovative, responsive and responsible requires focusing on a number of leadership, power and influence issues. If power utilizes influence by determining which events, actions and behaviors are affected, then politics exercises power to get something done, as well as protecting the vested interests of individuals or groups. Organizational politics is defined as "the use of power, with power viewed as a source of potential energy to manage relationships".
It appears that the road to power can take many different routes. Those in search of power must first choose their direction and then be aggressive in their pursuits. Whether it is Position or Personal, power is an individual's ability to control outcomes. Although not always the case, personal gain is seen as a key motivation for one's quest for power.
"And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass doorknob, a dog-collar - but no dog - the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash. He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while - plenty of company - and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village. The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place in his worldly circumstances, and then wended toward headquarters to report."
In an effort to avoid a long tedious day of work, with only a bucket of whitewash, a long-handled brush, some persuasion, charisma, his own keen ability to dangle the proverbial carrot, and ultimately the realization of his own personal power; young Tom Sawyer had discovered his advantage.