14 Types of Power You Can Use as a Project Manager!

5 types of powerBased 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. From the exam stand point this is part of project team development process.

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.

Informational power

When you have the power by being in charge of the process of gathering and distributing information, as well being in ownership of it. In this information age, it is crucial that information is used appropriately.

Persuasive power

You present your argument so nicely that the person is completely convinced that doing what you want is the only aim of his life. Well, almost. They idea is you are able to persuade someone to behave the way you want them to.

Ingratiating Power

This project manager is an expert at flattery. In a good way, that is. She is good at finding common ground and win cooperation of the other party.

The power to look at issue from the other person’s perspective and find the common ground is a very useful skill.

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.

Personal Power

This is as personal a power as it can. This relates directly to the personality of the project manager.
You are charismatic and attractive and people are in awe of you. Your personality is your power.

Also called: Charismatic power

Situational Power

This is the typical movie hero role. There are times (more than once in any project) where things are in crisis.
This power comes from rescuing the team/project/organization from such crisis.

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.

Relational Power

You possess tremendous network, and you are expert at building relationship with people. When someone knows they need something they are aware that you have the connections to get them that.
It is likely, as they say, it’s who you know that matters and not what you know.

Pressure-based Power

You don’t want to practice this power. There is definitely negative connotation to this.

This type of power is exercised when the project manager gives two options to a team member – the work she needs to be done or the bad consequence. Sort of.

Guilt-based Power

Phew! You knew this was coming.

The project manager reminds people their role and the fact that they are not living up to their expectation, so they feel guilty of not fulfilling their duty. And this, the PM expects, to motivate them to do the work.

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 among celebrities, military and political figures.

Avoiding Power

You wouldn’t think this would be a power, would you?

This is the power you gain by refusing to participate in an activity. May be the project manager skips an important meeting that needs her inputs, and everyone realizes what they have missed. That is avoiding power.

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” – it helps tremendously to have such talks in private. The embarrassment of being reprimanded in front of colleagues may take away the effectiveness of this type of power.

In summary,

Phew! That’s a lot of powers for the project manager. But.. but essential to know.

With modern management approach where a project manager tends to be a leader to be more effective, some of thee above powers may turn out to be counter-productive. The wisdom to know which style of power to use in which situations would be needed.

A project manager may naturally be exhibiting one or more of these types of power as part of their personality. And having an understanding of different types may help cultivate suitable style of power that can be effective in certain situations.

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