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Power at Work – Avoiding Power

How effective are you at influencing others by effectively using power at work? Are you politically savvy? How is power and influence used  at your workplace?

The ability to use power to influence others is a critical workplace competency. Inspiring leadersknow how to motivate others to achieve business results. They create a culture of trust and achievement.

Power without Authority

Effective use of power is becoming increasingly important, as many organizations are flatter, less hierarchical and cross-functional. This structural shift works best when leaders exert broad power and influence, without official authority.

While power skills are more important than ever, many executives shy away from developing them or fail to understand how they can expand and use them to full force.

Avoiding Power

No matter your position or title, you need power to push through any important agenda. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of Power: Why Some People Have It — And Others Don’t,cites three barriers that cause executives to shy away from using power to extend their influence.

1. The belief that the world is a just place: If you do a good job and behave appropriately, do you assume things will take care of themselves? When others make self-aggrandizing, envelope-pushing power plays, do you dismiss them instead of watching to see if you can learn something?

Believing in a just world makes you less powerful by:

a. Limiting your willingness to learn from all situations and people — even those you don’t like or respect

b. Anesthetizing you to the need to proactively build a power base — an outcome that blinds you to potentially career-damaging landmines

2. Leadership literature and popular business books: Many successful authors will tout their careers as models to emulate, but they’ll often gloss over the power plays they’ve used to get to the top.

Their books are filled with prescriptions for following your inner compass, being truthful, letting your feelings show, being modest and self-effacing, and shunning bullying behavior.

In truth, these authors are describing how they wish people in positions of power would behave. There’s no doubt the world would be a better place if leaders were always authentic, modest, truthful and concerned with others — but wishing won't make it so.

3. Your delicate self-esteem: People want to feel good about themselves and their abilities. Any experience of failure puts their self-esteem at risk. If you fail to actively seek and gain power, you won’t view your lack of it a personal failure — a phenomenon known as “self-handicapping.”

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help leaders improve their ability to influence others?Leaders at all levels need to improve their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I able to influence others by the effective use of power?”  Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching for leaders who help their employees to improve their ability to influence others.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you seek and gain power and improve self-esteem.You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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