The Three Types of Power as a Manager

This article was originally posted on Mar 11, 2014, and has been updated for relevancy

One of the biggest mistakes I see young managers make is the belief that their ability to be successful as manager comes from the authority they wield as a manager.  And they role power a manager has is nothing to dismiss out of hand, but it is the least effective method of getting things done.


There are three types of power that a manager.  The first and least effective, over the long term, is role power.  The second type comes from knowledge and expertise.  The third, and most effective is relationship power. 


Think of role power as a massive hammer.  When you swing that hammer and bring it down on something, it's going to make a lot of noise and be intimidating as all hell.  It will make an impression, but it also effectively stops all discussion and may create some feelings of resentment with your directs.  Don't get me wrong, a manager has role power for a reason, and it's a valuable tool to have, but it should be used sparingly.


Next is the power or influence you get from expertise and knowledge.  This typically means, that within your specialty, people will listen and respect what you say, provided that you continue to demonstrate a high level of expertise in the subject matter.  The limitation here though is the moment the conversation turns away from your area, your influence evaporates.


Finally, we come to relationship power.  I use relationship power as a strange way to say your network, and how well you can leverage your network to make things happen.  To be very clear, leveraging your network doesn't mean using your network, it means being able to make the most of it.  I'll cover more about ways to develop and care for your network in another post, but the bigger and stronger your network is, the more effective you'll be in any situation.


In the context of being a manager, relationship power comes from building positive relationships with your directs.  Give them respect, ask for their input, treat them like people, and you will be more effective as a manager.