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Bases of Power: Structural, Personal and Cognitive (Part 2)

Bases of Power: Structural, Personal and Cognitive (Part 2)
So, you had an opportunity to assess both your boss and yourself on each of these six bases of power, both personal as well as structural. So we’re talking about the personal attributes that give you power, expertise, information, referent. And then we’re talking about the structural bases of power, legitimate, reward, coercion, that often come out of the position that grants you control over these resources. I’d love to see you engage in the discussion forums with your classmates around what were some of the similarities, maybe some of the differences, between you and your boss in terms of the importance of these bases of power.
Did you find that from where you’re situated in the organization, for example, it’s more important that you rely on the personal basis of power? But what about when you have that structural base of power? Do you still need to rely on the personal basis of power, to be effective? And that’s an important question for you to think about. A lot of research that I’ve shared with you this week, talks about even if you have that structural power, that formal position, you still need to think about the expertise, information, and referent in order for you to influence other people. And so don’t forget even if you have that structural base of power, the importance of this personal base of power.
What we often find in our research is that the structure, the position, gives you license. It grants you some authority, but your ability to lead, your ability to influence, your ability to motivate people often originates in more of those personal bases of power. And that’s really important to continue to think about for yourself given where you’re at. What are the bases of power you have today? What are the bases of power that you do not have today? And what are the bases of power that you will need in the future in order to be a successful leader in your team or your organization? Now I wanna take you beyond the personal and the structural.
Because there’s a third category of base of power or source of power in terms of where power comes from that I’ve alluded to throughout this week when talking about how people feel. How they think about themselves as being powerful or powerless. Now clearly if I’m in a structural position of power, that’s going to enable me or grant me the ability to feel powerful. If I have the personal basis of power, I’m an expert, I have information that’s valuable or rare, that’s going to give me a reason or a resource to feel powerful.
But even absent of those things, we’re finding in our research that people can still be primed to think of themselves as either powerful or powerless, and that brings up a third category of bases of power that I think is important to recognize. And we call this third category the cognitive bases of power. One of them we refer to as priming, which is basically the idea of what do other people tell us or instructions that we get from other people in our life or organizations that primes us to feel powerful or powerless? And second, our beliefs. Many of these beliefs are cultural in nature.
But these are the beliefs that lead us to internalize that we are either powerful in this situation, or we are powerless in this situation. And so this category is really about how your own cognitions, how you think affect your so-called feeling of power. Again, related to the personal and structural, but not necessarily. And it’s important to understand the importance of these primes, these beliefs that lead us to feel powerful or powerless. And so here’s my question to you and this I really want you to think carefully about, reflect on your own, go to the discussion forum and we’ve got an area in the forum where you can really start to unpack with your classmates.
The first question, what are the beliefs or stereotypes? Let me repeat that. What are the beliefs or the stereotypes that in many ways will enhance your psychological power? But then, equally important is what are the beliefs or the stereotypes that constrain your psychological power? We’ve done research recently that shows that people have beliefs or stereotypes about men and women, in terms of being in powerful or powerless positions. And maybe consistent with your own beliefs, we generally find that, all else equal men are believed to be more powerful than women. Has enormous implications for men and women in the workplace, for how we think and feel, whether we are powerful or powerless. So these beliefs and stereotypes.
Maybe it’s gender related, male female. Maybe it’s minority status. Maybe it’s a tenure in the organization. I do a lot of work in cultures around the world where an age and tenure in the organization matter in terms of a source for power, much more than expertise or information. And that ultimately comes back to a set of cultural beliefs about the importance of age, related to wisdom, or tenure in the organization related to their experience and the wisdom that comes from that. But again, that’s not necessarily about expertise or information. It’s about these beliefs related to, in this case age or tenure in the organization.
So my question for you, that I really want you to engage with your classmates and really debate and discuss, is what are those beliefs, those stereotypes that we have out in the world that enhance our psychological power? That cognitive priming, if you will, and what are those beliefs or those stereotypes that can constrain our psychological power? Discuss, debate, share, and ultimately learn from each other around the world beliefs and stereotypes that enhance and constrain.
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