We should be discussing three notions i.e. management, power and influence – remembering that it is crucial to differentiate between influence and power, which is only potential influence. Power may result from multiple factors, although it does not change anything in its own right. It is only influence is an act of change of attitudes in the direction we want. It is very important to identify this difference because you may have power but no influence e.g. if you are not aware that you have it or are unable to use it properly.
Secondly – if we influence someone i.a. actually change behaviours, attitudes or opinions e.g. when the person would not have undertaken any action without our intervention, then such influence must be backed by power. This is why from the point of view of a manager it is more practical to see power as a management tool. Professor Pfeffer, who has been involved with the notion of power for years, proposes in his scholarly work the theory that power is akin to static energy – it is like a charged battery, which does not do anything on its own. Only when connected to something it will cause an effect – starting an influence.
Do people understand the difference? I do not know research about the degree of awareness. There is research however, which has it that people are aware that both these notions exist in an organisation. Practice and experience teach us that many of them do not call them by their proper name every day. What is also important is that they associate the term of power and politics with negative situations in the company, though this is a fairly narrow approach to these matters.
It is worth emphasising that politics in management terms is comprised of three components. First of all the change of power into influence i.e. transformation of some potential into real change. This happens every time when we overcome opposition and induce people to behave in what we deem to be the proper way. Politics in this sense means our power, which is used to reach specific objectives.
Secondly politics is about increasing our power by reaching its sources. Power results from something – from a formal position, from relationships or features that we have. Say, if we are experts in something and others need our know-how then we have power. People will agree to do something for me because they need me. Also being liked is a source of power. I will be more willing to give up or do something the way someone wants if I like him…
Thirdly and at the same time most ethically ambiguously, politics is a way of limiting the power of others. If we have no possibility to increase our power then we can demonstrate that whoever disagrees with us is not as good an expert as we are. For example when discussing a budget draft we can support our point by proving that someone else does not how to build a budget. Instead of elevating our position I downgrade someone else.
Whether we want it or not, whether we call a spade a spade, in the long run you cannot be an effective manager without using power, politics and influence. There are basically no goals or directions that everyone agrees with – that are objectively good for the entire organisation – counterarguments can always be found. Thus such actions will be implemented, which are backed by appropriately strong power of people who support them. The other reason, for which power is needed is the fact that there are relatively few things you can do single handed. If we need people to help us reach goals while many by definition will disagree, then it becomes a necessity for us to resort to power.
The role of persuasiveness in transforming power into real influence is known. Do you think this creates an opportunity for Public Relations? What is the relationship between PR and persuasion?
Public Relations in their most fundamental form have two functions: information and persuasion – building trust and support for the organisation. These two tasks can hardly be split apart; it is seldom that we encounter communication, which is purely informative or persuasive. Public Relations actually use and should use persuasion to a large extent. If we do not conceal the purpose then showing the good sides in specific contexts or emphasising efforts will facilitate interpreting the situation. The opposite approach is to use lies and to conceal key information, which first of all is unethical and also involves the risk of reputation loss.
Reasonable reasons vs. emotions – both these factors are essential in communication; the former to convince people to see your way, the latter to shake the audience. Are there any methods for building messages using both factors? How does such a process flow?
A lot of recent research into motivation indicates a greater than expected role of emotions. Our decision, even if based on reasonable grounds, are always filtered by emotions. We have basically always known that these two factors – reasonable and emotional – are complementary; it is difficult to approach them separately. Even purely numerical calculations may screened with a filter of emotional factors.