What the Research Tells Us About Role Power

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

A comparison of leadership effectiveness between people rated low on role power and people rated high on it shows that having high role power essentially doubles your capacity to lead or influence other; but it’s not as large an increase as one gets from having high expressiveness, knowledge, reputation, attraction, or character power. In other words, if all you have going for you is high role power, you will be moderately effective at getting others to comply with what you want. However, if you have high-role power combined with strength in those other five power sources, you are likely to be compelling and masterful at leading others and getting what you want. Role power alone is not enough if you want to be an inspiring and compelling leader, so don’t rely only on the strength of your position in your company to lead effectively.

Clearly, some business managers don’t care about being inspiring or participative. Some are autocrats who either enjoy throwing their weight around or don’t have the skill to lead and manage people any other way. Is role power sufficient for them? Can they get what they want simply by bossing people around? Yes, of course. However, in the business world today that is not a sustainable leadership style. Autocratic management will produce a compliant workforce (albeit with high voluntary turnover), but it won’t produce a committed workforce. If you want to be a highly effective business leader in the twenty-first century you need to avoid using blunt force as much as possible and restrain your use of role power, even though you have it. Leading by influence rather than authority is far more likely to produce a workforce of engaged, committed, and loyal employees.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence by Terry R. Bacon. Copyright 2011, Terry R. Bacon. Published by AMACOM. For more information: www.amacombooks.org