What’s Your Power Style?


Here is an excerpt from an article written by Maggie Craddock for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Have you ever wondered if a person’s childhood experiences influence the way they operate as a professional later in life? Did that boardroom bully who intimidates others in order to make a point shove people around on the playground as a kid?

Whether you are trying to get ahead at your existing firm or land a job in a new organization, it’s helpful to understand that many of your instincts for giving and taking power stem from ways you were conditioned in the first system you experienced in life — your family system. Through my research for my upcoming book Power Genes, I discovered that the building blocks of anyone’s signature power style are rooted in the ways they have been conditioned to respond emotionally and behaviorally to the first authority figures they encountered in life, namely, their caregivers.

To get a sense of how you may be emotionally conditioned to respond to power in the workplace, reflect for a moment on the predominant way that your caregivers exerted authority in your family system. Did they motivate you by considering your feelings, or did they issue orders they expected to be promptly obeyed? If you were raised by caregivers who asked your opinion when making important family decisions, you probably react positively to colleagues who take the time to connect with you at a human level. This type of reaction indicates that the emotional dimension of your signature power style may be trust-based.

In contrast, people who were raised by caregivers that were either rigidly authoritarian or highly permissive often find that the emotional dimension of their power style can be fear-based. They may react negatively to consensus building on the job and gravitate towards leaders who operate independently and exude an aura of confidence.

But there is another level of your power style the needs exploring. The behavioral dimension of your power style stems from the way you learned to deal with your caregivers as a unit to get what you wanted in childhood. Did a more informal approach win the day, or did you learn to operate more formally with them?

If your childhood experience taught you that you could sometimes get one parent to agree to a request that had been refused by the other, the behavioral dimension of your signature power style may be predominantly informal. People with a strong informal dimension to their power style prefer one-on-one interactions on the job when they are trying to influence others. For example, even when they know they will need to present an idea or proposal to a group, they will tend to run their ideas by key individuals privately before the group meets.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.



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