Kanter and Korda: The Symbols of Power

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  • 0:05 Concepts of Power
  • 0:43 Kanter and Korda
  • 1:23 Kanter's Perspective
  • 2:16 Korda's Perspective
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

Power can be viewed by symbols. Some of those symbols can help individuals, while others can show just how much power one individual has over another. These two aspects, discussed by Kanter and Korda, will be reviewed in this lesson.

Concepts of Power

Power, as it relates to business, is an interesting concept. There are many different types and aspects of power. Power can be formal, meaning it's held by someone in a position of authority, such as a manager or an executive; or it can be informal, such as someone who is well respected at a company, and thus, individuals tend to follow that person. Regardless of what type of power is present, there are different ways to look at how that power can be deployed or even used, and that is what we will focus on throughout this lesson. We will focus on how one perspective will focus on power being used to help people, while the other perspective will talk about symbols of power and how they are used.

Kanter and Korda

Two individuals who viewed how power can be used are Kanter and Korda. These two individuals have very different perspectives on power. Kanter has written articles regarding who has power and who feels powerless (and why), while Korda writes about the tangible aspects of power, symbols if you will. The two have differing perspectives, but they do run in concert with each other. You see, Kanter talks about who has power and who is powerless, while Korda talks about the images, possessions or even position that a person with power can use as a symbol of that power. Again, while they look at this topic from different perspectives, the two can be closely linked as we will soon learn.

Kanter's Perspective

Kanter believes that there are characteristics of power in organizations that people have. They focus on:

  • The ability to intercede if someone is in trouble and needs help
  • The ability to get someone you like promoted
  • Non-restrictive budget constraints, or a manager that can go over budget and not be in jeopardy
  • Helping employees get a raise that might be higher than the norm

So, as we can see, Kanter looked at how to help others in the company based on the power a person has. But, Kanter also believes there is an aspect of lack of power (or powerlessness) that comes into play as well. For example, if there is a layoff coming, a manager in an organization may be powerless to stop it or have it negatively impact his or her direct reports. To that point, they may have to make budget cuts and take money away from departments. So, as you see, while managers can have power, they can also be powerless, depending on the situation.

Korda's Perspective

In contrast, Korda's perspective is more associated with symbols of power, be they tangible or not. For example, he literally looks at each aspect of the type of office furniture that's in a manager's office:

  • Is a conference room table long and rectangular? Thus, the 'head' of the meeting or department sits at the head of the table.
  • Is a manager's desk large and intimidating?
  • Is his or her chair higher than those in front of the desk?

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