Project Manager & Power to Influence
One of the critical aspects of project management success is effective leadership at every level of the project hierarchy. This is more like a collective effort; no matter what your position or role is, in your domain, you must think and act like a leader. Projects fail when this collective effort is confused to be the responsibility of only one individual or diluted to serve someone’s selfish goals or due to lack of proper understanding and effective use of leadership skills.
No doubt power and influence both are natural attributes of authority that have been assigned to the project manager, but power and influence are not the same. Power forces people to complete a task, whereas influence helps them understand why that task is necessary. To be a good project leader you must always know how to use your power to influence others and achieve positive results in your project management endeavors.
In this article, I will introduce you to the power of influence, what it can help you achieve, and some tips on how we can use power to better our influence for the success of project management.
What is Power of Influence?
According to a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power is divided into five distinct forms. This was later followed by the identification of a sixth separate and distinct base of power: informational power [Source: Wikipedia].
I am citing the brief description of 5 distinct power bases from Gemmill, G. R. & Thamhain, H. J. (1974). The effectiveness of different power styles of project managers in gaining project support.
1) Formal Authority: The ability to gain support because of being officially empowered to issue orders.
2) Reward Power: The ability to gain support because of directly or indirectly dispensing valued organizational rewards.
3) Penalty Power: The ability to gain support because of directly or indirectly dispensing penalties.
4) Expert Power: The ability to gain support because of possessing special knowledge or expertise.
5) Referent Power: The ability to gain support because team members are personally attracted to him or the project.
What can “Power to Influence” help you achieve?
1. Ease project management process for project teams and project stakeholders. Power to influence helps project leaders to communicate with clarity and authority. You can ensure that your team is aware of what’s in it for them and how the success will positively impact their career progression.
2. Develop trust, respect, and commitment among project teams. Power to influence helps you to resolve the resource-related challenges more effectively. With the power to influence you can create and retain high-performing project teams.
3. Adapt agility in every aspect of project management, you are quick to respond to the changing demands of customers and project stakeholders. With the power to influence you are better positioned to get things done on time.
Tips to improve your “Power to Influence”
What we often presume is that our power to influence is limited to our formal authority alone, we get multiple opportunities in our role to exercise our power to influence with or without formal authority to create a positive impact. We know that Leadership is not a title/position, and in all aspects of project management project leader or any project team member can exercise leadership skills across organization and project management hierarchies.
In this section, I will summarize some of the recommended tips on how to improve your “Power to influence”.
1. Honesty is the best policy and good project leaders follow this rule in everything they do. When you work and promote the right intent by your behavior you will increase your power to influence. Always make sure that your actions encourage your team members to trust you more, believe in your vision for them, and enable a safe and productive project work environment.
2. Promote a culture of feedback and continuous improvement. Let there be no barriers that prevent your teams from approaching you or presenting you with their opinion. Always believe that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement and you are open to change in alignment with project objectives and organizational culture.
3. As a project leader “Lead from the front” and prove your commitment. Be passionate in achieving project goals, ignite positive energy and a new way of thinking for project teams. Drive project teams to success, open new doors of possibilities for them and empower them to grow.
4. This quote “The more reflective you are, the more effective you are. — Hall & Simeral” highlights the importance of being reflective. By being reflective we try to renew our understanding of the situation, how our reaction was? , what might have been done more/avoided? and what are our key learnings? Find every opportunity to reflect upon project management decisions as an individual or as a team to reach a satisfying result.
5. Develop your knowledge on the technical and functional aspects of the project, reach out to experts within the organization, and commit extra time to ensure that you gain a considerable amount of knowledge. To be a problem solver you must understand the issue and its impact, whom to approach, and how to get it resolved.
6. Understand the importance of your team, their needs, and challenges. It is expected of a good project leader to be a servant of their team’s needs. Always encourage your teams to succeed by providing them a safe environment, by being supportive of their decisions, by helping them see everything with clarity, and by inspiring them to dream big.
We all can use our power to influence. Sometimes the path to use the power of influence for project success will not be that easy — in every step, you will encounter multiple challenges on various fronts and your project leadership and people management skills will be tested. You will be doubted, challenged, and encouraged but when you go through this journey with a better understanding of how you can effectively use your power to influence will help you emerge as a more admirable project leader.
I welcome your feedback as an opportunity to help us learn from your experience.
1. Gemmill, G. R. & Thamhain, H. J. (1974). The effectiveness of different power styles of project managers in gaining project support. Project Management Quarterly, 5(1), 21–28.