Power and Authority – Meaning, Definitions, Types and Theories

Tactics to Use Power

Research study on this topic by Kipnis et al suggests that agents (powerholders) adopt different tactics to influence their targets. These are as follows:
i. Reason
Agents use facts and data to make a logical or rational presentation of ideas that they want to be accepted.
ii. Friendliness
They use flattery, creation of goodwill, acting humbly, and being friendly prior to making a request.
iii. Coalition
They try to get support of other organisational members to back up their request.
iv. Bargaining
They use negotiation through the exchange of benefits or favours.
v. Assertiveness
They use a direct forceful approach such as demanding compliance With requests, repeating reminders, ordering individuals to do what is asked, and pointing out that rules require compliance.
vi. Higher Authority
They make attempts to gain the support of higher authority in the organisation to back up their requests.
vii. Sanctions
They use organisationally-derived rewards and punishments such as preventing or promising a salary increase, promising to give a satisfactory or threatening to give unsatisfactory performance appraisal, etc.

The research study further states that people do not rely on these tactics equally. Since power can be applied upward (when subordinates attempt to influence superior) and downward (when superiors attempt to influence subordinates), relative use of various tactics differs in these two directions.

Difference between Leadership and Power

Power Leadership
Power does not require goal compatibility. Requires some congruence between the goals of leader and those being led.
In exercising power, an agent may use methods that may result into forced compliance of agent’s wishes. Leader gets this compliance from others enthusiastically.
Power is not limited to downward direction. Its affects may have downward, lateral and upward directions. Leadership focuses on downward influence on one’s followers.
Power can be exercised by individuals and groups. Leadership is relevant for individuals only.

Power and Authority

Authority and Power though both are used to influence other’s attitudes, actions or behavior- are different. Power seems more influential than authority, but cannot change or replace authority. The following table explains the difference between authority and power.

Authority Power
Authority is the legitimate right to do something (to decide or command). Power is the personal capability to command. It is the ability to do something. It may not be legitimate.
It is institutional and positional. It originates from the highest position holders. It is personal, free from institute and position. It is inbuilt personal capabilities.
Authority resides in the position. Power resides in the person.
One holds authority as long as he occupies the position or post. Power is permanent. It cannot be taken back as it has not been given.
Authority is not always influential. It may fail. Power is more influential. It always fetches the result as it is always accepted by others.
Authority may or may not be accepted and respected. Power is always accepted and respected.
Authority cannot affect the power. Power can have definite impact on authority.
Level of authority depends on the position in organizational hierarchy. Power doesn’t follow the position. It depends on personal capabilities.
Authority centres (location or points) can be portrayed (visible) in the formal structure of the organization and are shown in the organization chart. Power flows in all direction. Even, low level position holder can exercise power on higher level position holder.
Authority enables the person to take a decision and get it implemented. Power doesn’t enable a person to take decision, but can influence the decision and its implementation.
Authority can reward or punish others. Power cannot offer reward or impose punishment. However, it can increase or decrease its level or degree.

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