5 Types of Power You Can Use As a Project Manager!


5 types of power

Based on whether you are working in a functional organization, matrix organization or projectized organization, you will have varied degree of authority and power as a project manager. While a project manager has to use her powers effectively throughout the project, this is part of project team development project management activity.

There are different types of power as researched by John French and Bertram Raven, and each type of power has a different impact on the team.

Legitimate Power

When you are made project manager of a project you are given legitimate power to tell your team what they should be working on. In strong matrix or projectized organization you may be completely in charge of team, in terms of doing their performance appraisal, decide on compensation etc.

Reward Power

This power is about the ability to provide someone with something that the person desires, or provide something that reduces the pains of undesirable experience. Essentially you either increase the comfort or decrease the discomfort.

As a project manager you will have control over budget and you can decide on rewards to be given. Many a people get motivated to work for a reward, but you need to ensure that they are not win-lose type of rewards. Make sure that criteria to meet is clear to everyone on the team and all stand a fair chance of achieving it.

It is better to tag reward to project objectives such as delivering by a certain date, or getting defect count to below a certain number. It could be for an individual (‘completing her work ahead of schedule with best quality’) or for the team (‘deliver the upcoming release in time’). When team achieves these objectives everyone stands to gain something from the collective effort and such rewards foster collaborative nature of the team members.

Expert Power

This is the power you radiate when you lead by example. This is characterized by the ability to administer information, knowledge or expertise to others.

A common problem many project managers face is when team considers them as ‘not knowing what is involved in doing the project work’, and hence do not respect their decisions.

For instance, if you have been a software engineer and worked your way up to being project manager, and you take up part of a critical module of the project and code it flawlessly. Your team respects that and looks up to you understanding that you know what it takes to deliver something. They are now more inclined to listen to you and accept your decisions because you have credibility in their eyes.

Referent Power

A project manager casually mentioning to the team that he had a lunch meeting with the CEO and he appreciated team’s hard work, you are exercising referent power. Now that they know you have access to the powerful person in the company and he trusts you, and you have put good word about the team, they admire you and want to be like you. Basically you associate yourself with people in power and show the team how they stand to benefit by this, and your team would love the fact that they are associated with you.

This is the power most of the advertisements exert on people, by showing celebrities using their products. Because celebrities use them, people buy the products. This type of power is pretty strong that power-holder is usually looked upon as a role model. This type of power is often found amongst celebrities, military and political figures.

Punishment Power

This is also called as Coercive power. This power may have negative consequences. Main goal of this power is compliance. Punishment power is exercised when someone is not performing and has to be reminded of bad consequences if there is no improvement.

According to Changingminds.org “demonstrations of harm are often used to illustrate what will happen if compliance is not gained”. But remember the adage “praise in public, reprimand in private” – have such talks always in private. The embarrassment of being reprimanded in front of colleagues may take away the effectiveness of this type of power.

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