The opposite of reward power is coercive power. It refers to the authority to punish or recommend punishment. Managers have coercive power when they have the right to fire or demote employees, criticize, or withdraw pay increases.
In contrast to position power, personal power most often comes from internal sources, such as a person’s special knowledge or personality characteristic. Personal power is the tool of the leader. Subordinates follow a leader because of the respect, approval, or caring they feel for the individual and his/her ideas. Personal power is becoming increasingly important as teams of workers are less tolerant of authoritarian management in today’s businesses.
Power resulting from a leader’s special knowledge or skill regarding the tasks performed by follows is referred to as expert power. When the leader is a true expert, subordinates go along with recommendations because of his/her superior knowledge. Leaders at supervisory levels often have experience in the technical knowledge that gains them promotion. Top managers may lack expert power because subordinates know more about technical details than they do.
Referent power comes from a leader’s personality characteristic that commands subordinates’ identification, respect, and approval so they wish to follow the leader. When subordinates admire a supervisor because of the way he/she deals with them, the influence is based on referent power. Referent power depends on the leader’s personal characteristic rather than on a formal title or position.
Every supervisor wants to feel comfortable with authority and exercise it like a pro. However, it isn’t easy for those who just acquire it and are accustomed to following orders. Those supervisors experienced with the ins and outs of authority say you should adopt the following techniques:
- Be aware that authority can go to your head if you are not careful.
- Realize that the best supervisors are those who don’t flaunt their positions.
- Clarify in advance what authority you do and do not have before exercising it.
- Recognize that the purpose of delegating authority is to get a job done, not to show that you are the boss.
- Be polite and considerate when exercising it.
- Try to promote team spirit when exercising authority.
- Avoid using authority when you sense that simple persuasion will do the job.
J.D. McHenry, president of Global Jet Services, has been involved in numerous aviation maintenance and flight operation programs for more than 31 years. His background includes aircraft manufacturer, corporate flight operations, FAR 91 and 135 operations, aircraft management, repair stations, and fixed base operations. He holds A&P, IA, and Doctorate of Business Management. For more information on Global Jet Services, visit www.globaljetservices.com.
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