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.

Cultural Differences in Networking

This article was originally posted on Dec 20, 2013, and has been updated


Culture determines behavior.  Pretty obvious right.  We learn how to behave based on a whole bunch of factors, and culture is one of the big ones.  But what happens when you move to a new country?  The classic answer is, “it depends.”  Success in their home country is often a poor predictor of success abroad.


When you move to a new place, one of the best ways to combat loneliness is to meet new people.  However, the best way to build a new network can vary significantly from country to country.  For example, the average American takes a very individualistic approach, while the average Japanese would prefer a more group-based approach.


In America, meeting new people is mainly dependent on the individual.  Introducing yourself to a new person is perfectly acceptable, and often admired both in the personal and professional level.   It is a significant first step in building an extensive network, and extroverts tend to be the most connected.


By contrast, in Japan, introductions need to be made.  On both the personal and professional level, you build an extensive network by effectively leveraging your relationships to get more introductions, and investing time and effort to take care and maintain those relationships.  Extroverts may have large networks, but it’s the people that take care of their existing relationships that end up being the most connected.  The networks may not be as large, but they are powerful.


The American that shows up in Japan and tries to build an extensive network through introducing him/herself to everyone would have a tough time making it through the door without the proper connections.  Likewise, the Japanese person arriving in America expected to rely on the strength of his company name or waits passively for a network that provides introductions will end up waiting much longer to meet the people he'd like. 


This is one example of why the most successful person back home may not be successful outside of their native culture.  Often the person who insists the most on doing things they would back home will never be fully integrated into their host culture and will struggle significantly both personally and professionally.


If you are moving to a new country, find out how things get done locally.  It might be hard for you to understand, but there is a reason why it works., and adapting your behavior to something more appropriate will only help you be successful.