Managers: Don’t Dismiss Your Legitimate Power

Posted by Joseph Sherren on June 6, 2017

In many of my seminars I speak about the importance of using power to get things done.  But first let me say, all power is good, yet power can be bad.  It is the utility of power that makes it good or bad.

There are two types of power that we use to modify the behavior of others: (1) position power and (2) personal power.  Both are equally important to being a successful leader or coach.
These two types are further subdivided into eight power bases. Position power includes: coercive, association, legitimate, and precedence; whereas, personal power includes:  reward, information, expert, and connection.
The legitimate power base has fallen out of favor over the past few years, and we have been socially conditioned to believe it’s bad.  This trend is causing managers to work significantly harder to get done what needs to be done.

The two aspects of legitimate power which have been popular to dismiss lately are:

  1. Dressing professionally to achieve the outcome you are trying to accomplish.
  2. Providing managers with an office that reflects the management status they have attained.
Interestingly, there is now a (quiet) movement to reverse both these viewpoints. In terms of clothing, many of us have experienced the negative impact of not wearing appropriate attire in specific situations.

Something as simple as how you are served by a retail clerk when you wear professional clothing, versus if you went in wearing baggy, ripped jeans, and a hat on backward.  Call this discrimination if you wish, but that’s reality.

Personally, I encounter this regularly when traveling.  If I am wearing business casual clothing, the possibility of getting upgraded and treated with more respect on a flight or in a hotel is significantly improved.

At work, my general guidance for managers is to wear clothing one level above your employees.  If they wear jeans, you wear slacks.  If they wear slacks, you wear a sports coat. If they wear a sport coat, you wear a suit, etc.

Bosses (even in the high-tech world) are saying they want their offices back.  Complete open floor plans are just not working.  It is not about status or privilege; it is about think-time, giving your team their own space, time for critical decision making, and mutual respect.

Many leaders are now swimming against the tide of the open office.  In a recent study, British researchers found that despite the modest communication improvement, open offices decreased worker motivation, productivity, and the manager’s ability to focus.

When an employee has a “bad day” – which happens – having your boss right there in the bullpen increases stress and often workers will choose not to even show up, lowering productivity.  Some executives who are required to comply with the open-space policy are renting offices in other locations, using their own funds, just to maintain professional privacy.

I have written previously how naps increase productivity, improves health, and enriches decision-making.  But, who wants to take a nap in front of their boss – or their employees?

Professionals need quiet space.  Successful leaders I have interviewed focus on spending quality time with their employees, but also appreciate their private space.

My question for managers:

“Are you balancing time with your team appropriately to encourage participation, while at the same time maintaining your legitimate power?”

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