You Have More Power Than You Think
I'd like to believe that if we had an organizational chart in my household, my box would be close to the top, whereas Cookie's would be close to the bottom. Hers would be the bottom one, actually, since our other dog is her senior and my daughter no longer has her pet mice.
After all, I pay more bills than Cookie, and money is power right?
Well, the reality is that having no money or vested power doesn’t seem to prevent Cookie from exercising at least one other type of power. I really don’t think Cookie has read French and Raven’s five bases of power model, though:
Legitimate. I do have this one. It’s my formal right to be Cookie’s boss (I bought her). I'm the one who holds the official title of "head of household" (at least when I file my taxes.)
Reward. My daughter is the one who has the reward power, because she’s the one who has dog treats, and she decides whether or not and when to give the dogs one.
Expert. This is our vet (well, not really "our," but the dogs'). Cookie need to obey him because he knows better.
Coercive. Every human in our household has this power, because we can all punish little Cookie if she’s a bad dog.
Referent. That’s Cookie’s power. It is the power someone has because of his or her charisma, worthiness, and right to be respected. My mom has it because she’s almost 89 and her seniority gives her some privilege, but when it comes to charisma nobody beats Cookie.
In 1965 Raven added a sixth type of power: informational. This is the power that someone who “owns” information (that others need) has. I guess since I know where the dog treats are, I do have some of this power.
Cookie doesn’t know anything, so she doesn’t have any informational or expert power; she doesn’t have any power to reward or punish anybody, so she doesn’t have those sources of power either. Ah, but her likability-power is enormous, so much so that she gets away with being the only one in our home who doesn’t work!
I’m not recommending you become so likable at your workplace that you won’t need to work. What I’m saying is this: the fact that you may not have vested power (you don't have a title with the words President, or Manager) doesn't mean you have no power at work. Do you have the power to decide who sees your boss and who doesn't (reward / coercive power)? Does everyone go ask you when they need information or have an Excel problem? (expert / informational power)?
I know that women at every organizational level are attracted to my likability boot-camps and coaching because they’re aware of how increasing their charisma will increase the opportunities and successes they’ll have in every area of their lives.
So there you have it: Whether you hold legitimate power (because you are in a supervisory position) or not, if you influence others then you're a leader. Leadership is all about influencing others, so start developing as many sources of power as you can, and you’ll increase your influence.
If you don’t believe me, ask Cookie.