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Power Types in Leadership: Formal and Personal

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  • 0:06 Power Defined
  • 1:38 Personal Power
  • 2:37 Multiple Bases of Power
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Leaders exert power, which is necessary to get anything done. However, there are different types of power in leadership. In this lesson, we'll explore personal power and formal power. You'll also have a chance to take a short quiz after the lesson.

Power Defined

Nathan works as a project manager for a company that specializes in flipping houses. His boss recently bought a house that needs serious renovations before selling, and Nathan is responsible for getting it ready to put on the market for sale. In order to successfully flip the house, Nathan needs power.

Power is the ability of a person to control resources, people and events to accomplish a task or objective while overcoming resistance, opposition or other obstacles standing in the way. Power can be categorized by its source. Two important bases of power are formal power and personal power. Let's take a quick look at each.

Nathan is fortunate to have formal power. Formal power is based upon the position that a person holds in the business. An employee's power, if any, is usually outlined in the job description for the position the employee holds.

Nathan's power is derived from his position as a project manager for his company. As a project manager, Nathan's company has empowered him to obtain the resources and personnel necessary to complete renovations of the house up to a budgeted amount. He has the authority to negotiate contracts for supplies and hire subcontractors to perform work. He also has the authority to manage the day-to-day activities of the renovations.

Personal Power

Another type of power used in leadership is personal power, which does not rely upon bestowed authority from the organization. Personal power is power that is intrinsic to the person who has it. It's based upon a person's personal qualities and traits, such as honesty, courage, heroism or the ability to inspire. In other words, a person has personal power because people are willing to follow him because he is who he is.

You can think of a person with personal power as a natural leader. This is the person that teammates or fellow employees naturally follow regardless of the person's formal position. We often refer to someone with personal power as being a charismatic leader. Sometimes, personal power may be more effective than formal power because it doesn't rely upon outside authority or coercion.

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