Organizational Power Politics: Tactics in Organizational Leadership

By Gilbert W. Fairholm | Go to book overview

13
Forms of Power

As we have seen, power use is a central activity of life. Its use in the many contexts we find it takes many forms. In a real sense, it becomes the central activity of life. And, precisely because power use is so ubiquitous in life, the terms we have to describe the various forms of use have become confused. At the risk of perpetuating this confusion, in this chapter I will try to redefine common language and some popular power terms. The intent is to relate these terms more precisely to the forms that power takes in organizations.

Securing our desired results in the face of opposition characterizes much of our interpersonal life activity. Depending upon the individual persuasions, writers define power as harmonious with influence or opposed to it. They use the ideas of power and force synonymously. Others define it as disparate ends of a continuum of control. That is, some see power as authority or as antithetical to it. Others see coercion as power made manifest, or as merely one form of power. Confusion in the literature is rampant. The result is that the lexicon of power terms is almost useless in distinguishing power-use mechanisms. We need a new language to reconceptualize power terms in ways that admit precise meaning and unambiguous application. To do this, however, is to introduce further ambiguity into the language and discussion of power.

Defining power as a personal capacity that allows the individual to get his desired results in the face of opposition encompasses much of current research. It removes, also, the need to construe too narrowly much of the important work now being done to extend and operationalize power usage. Power defined in this way allows us to see it manifest in a wide variety of settings and in increasingly multiple forms. It is thus a potential for organizational and individual imposition

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