Power and Influence

Power and Influence


The ability of any organization to profitably operate in the twenty-first century amidst the emergent sensitive demands is based on its ability to effectively identify all underlying challenges and problems and asses them and their major alternatives to generate the best possible solutions. Current organizational leaders increasingly struggle with various complexities that undermine the overall wellbeing of the organization. Of great importance are the concerns associated with power and influence. These are responsible for enabling organizations to not only become innovative but to also develop responsibility as well as responsiveness to the emergent multifaceted needs that characterize their respective organizational environments.

Power and Influence

It is against this background that this paper reviews the concepts of power and influence and how the same influence organizational behavior at different levels. To enhance a better diagnostic consideration, the paper will explicitly explore various sources of power and influence and underscore how this interplays to contribute to the successful functioning of the organization.

Essentially, the concept of power denotes the capacity of an individual to make someone do whatever the individual wants (Hunt John & Osborn, 2005). Thus a powerful person usually has the capability to mold things and have the way s/he wants. In other words, power does not only give one the capacity to do something but it is also instrumental in enabling one to accomplish various activities. Influence is directly related to power and can be considered a response to this. It implies the capacity of objects and/or individual to have a strong force on certain opinions or behaviors of individuals.

According to Rodil (2006), this often culminates in production of specific desirable effects that reflect the ideals of the compelling force. Thus put differently, power constitutes the ability to influence change while influence is the degree of the resultant change on the behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes of the target population. Notably, both power and influence play a critical role in organizational functioning. These not only influence the occurrence of various organizational activities but also determine the nature of the impact to the organization.

Generally, it can be posited that they are elemental in determining the overall performance of the organization. At the organizational level, power and influence are particularly attractive because of various reasons. To begin with, they empower an individual to influence vital decisions regarding various aspects that define the functioning of the organization. These range from influencing the allocation of vital organizational resources, determining the nature and type of goals and objectives that the organization pursues to determining the philosophy that would guide the operations of the organization and the specific activities that the respective organization partakes in a bit to realize its various goals and objectives.

Most importantly, Rodil (2006) asserts that this enables the individual to determine who would succeed or fail within the organization. Furthermore, Somech (2002) indicates that power gives an individual some degree of control over the results of the organization’s activities. At this juncture, it is worth acknowledging that it is also instrumental in enhancing organizational certainty. This is an important mode of coping with the various problems that characterize the present day dynamic and complex world. In order to understand and appreciate the implications of power and influence on organizational functioning, it is imperative to review the vital sources of the same.

Sources of Power

As indicated in the preceding analysis, it is certain that power and influence are elemental in organizational functioning. Kotter (1985) contends that this power is sourced from different bases that include legitimate, reward, coercive, referent and expert. To begin with, legitimate source of power is associated with a relatively higher position in the organization. This is accorded to individuals who assume top positions in an organization. Thus in this regard, the individual owes his or her power to the organization s/he is working for. In his review, studies contend that legitimacy is important because it significantly reduces incidences of opposition and resistance. This has a double effect on different individuals within the organization. Basically, by legitimizing the position of an individual, the position of his or her opponents is subsequently de legitimized.

The second common source of power within organization stems from the aspect of reward. This is associated with the allocation of resources and it implies that the respective target is compelled to respect the authority and act in accordance with the organizational norms and values in order to be rewarded. This source of power is considered attractive because of its ability to significantly reduce the level of resistance within the organization. Further, Kleiner (2003) cites that the person with this form of power is responsible for removing specific negative sanctions that threaten the wellbeing of the target in the given organization. Examples of these types of rewards include vacations, salaries, promotions and work offs amongst others.

In contrast coercive power enables an individual to administer some form of punishment through enforcement of negative sanctions. Individuals with this power execute the same through demoting, reprimanding or firing the targets. In his review, Hunt et al (2005) ascertains that this form of power is mainly used in organizations to reinforce relevant conformity to the specific norms and practices that govern the functioning of the organization. Unlike the reward power that is attractive, coercive power can be argued to stimulate a negative response like active opposition and increased employee resistance.

Expert power on the other hand is accorded to an individual by virtue if being knowledgeable in a given field of specification. This expertise according to Newstrom and Davies (2002) is attained through training, education, experience or a combination of all. It is vital because it empowers one with important skills as well as expertise that enables the same to understand the specific field fully. This then gives the individual the authority over the rest of the individuals in the particular organization. In the recent past, Rodil (2006) indicate that employees are increasingly gaining this type of power. This can be attributed to the fact that unlike in the past, knowledge as opposed to physical power greatly influences the functioning of an employee. Notably, lack of these vital skills undermines the overall productive power of an organization.

Finally, the referent power denotes the power of partnership and collaboration. In this respect, Kotter (1985) indicates that regardless of the expertise or/ and organizational level of a employee, his or her ability to initiate and maintain strong relationships can enable the same to have some form of influence to the rest of the employees within the organization. In his study, studies show that this is also considered to originate from within and tends to develop over time. In addition, it is worth mentioning that its development is highly dependent on the interpersonal skills of the given individual. More over, it requires a significant degree of charisma in order for the individual to win the trust as well as respect of the followers.

Response to employment of Power

Notably, these are the main sources of influence and power and they influence the functioning of different organizations varied ways. This is because of the fact that they stimulate different responses within the organizations. At this time, it can be contended that the responses have various implications on the organization and can either build or destroy the same. To begin with, the given form of power may be met with resistance of the same for no apparent reason. This is usually a common response for coercive power and in most instances, Kotter (1985) shows that employees tend to resist in an arrogant manner.  This is likely to have adverse effects on the functioning of the organization because of the recognition that in most instances, it undermines the motivation of the employees and triggers a feeling of frustration.

Comparatively, employees can respond to the given power or influence through compliance. In this regard, Kleiner (2003) asserts that the affected employees usually abide by the given request although they manifest various reservations. They meet minimal expectations of the same and hold back significant efforts that could have otherwise contributed to effective functioning of the organization. Reward and legitimate powers have been cited to be key contributors to this state of affairs. Finally, the employees can respond through commitment. This is characterize by acceptance of the given request and subsequent positive employment of various talents to meet the demands of the request and satisfy the request of the leader. Hunt et al (2005) cites expert and referent powers to be associated with this ideal response.

Further, Somech (2002) points out that there are various techniques that are employed by the organizations to exercise influence. To begin with, the employers can bargain with the employees to reach a viable conclusion concerning the request at hand. In this regard, the authoritative party is in most cases forced to forfeit some degree of power. Further, the affected leaders may decide to form a coalition that would give them an equal chance of enforcing the power. Again, this is characterized by one segment of leadership foregoing a certain degree of authority. Finally, Kleiner (2003) cites that influence can be exercised through assertiveness. In this, the authority maintains its position regarding the request irrespective of the nature of response from the target. This is often common with authoritative form of leadership.


From the study, it is certain that power and influence in the context of an organization is augmented by various factors. Its sources are definite and tend to trigger different responses in the target population. While some sources are inclined within the organization, it is notable that some like referent and experts are largely influenced by personal factors. The responses range from compliance to commitment and resistance. These are directly related to the type of power that is employed by the organization. Further, there are various techniques that are employed in exercising influence. These include assertiveness, coalition and bargain amongst others.


Hunt, J., John, S. & Osborn, R. (2005).Organizational Behavior, 8th Edition. USA: Wiley.

Kleiner, A. (2003). Analyzing Power and Influence. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 16 (8), 660-85.

Kotter, J. (1985). Power and Influence. USA: Free Press.

Newstrom, J. & Davies, K. (2002). Organizational Behavior: Employee Behavior at Work. USA: McGraw Hill.

Rodil, C. (2006).Organizations and Human Behavior. USA: National Book Store.

Somech, A. (2002). Power and Influence. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 168-83.

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