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Researching and Writing


What Research Tells Us About Knowledge Power


Influence effectiveness depends partly on the strength of your power sources.  The more powerful you are, the more effective you are likely to be when you attempt to influence others. 

Research shows that there are eleven sources of power, divided into two categories and one special source:

Personal Power

Knowledge                Your knowledge and skills

Expressiveness         Your communication skills; how articulate and expressive you are

Attraction                   Your attractiveness or charisma; the extent to which you can cause others to like you

History                       The nature and extent of your relationship with the people you wish to influence

Character                   People’s perception of your honesty, integrity, and courage

Organizational Power

Role                            Your position, title, and responsibilities in your organization

Resources                  Your control of valuable resources others need or want

Information                 Your access to information, especially private or privileged information

Network                      The breadth and power of your network inside and outside your organization

Reputation                  How you are thought of inside and outside your organization

Will Power                   The desire to be more powerful coupled with your willingness to act.

For a fuller explanation of these power sources, see Understanding Power.



People have long recognized that knowledge is power.  In his Meditationes Sacrae (1597), Sir Francis Bacon, inventor of the scientific method, wrote, “ipsa scientia potestas est,” which means “knowledge itself is power.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing in 1870, said, “There is no knowledge that is not power.”  What you know and what you can do—what skills you have—are extraordinary sources of power and enable you to exert considerable influence if your knowledge power is high.  Consider these findings:

  • In our research on influence effectiveness, we discovered that people who are rated highest on knowledge power are more than three times more influential than people rated lowest on knowledge power.  This powerful correlation means that your ability to influence others is directly related to the power you derive from your knowledge and skills.  The more you know, the more you can do, the more influential you will be.  This substantiates the importance of education as well as the importance of lifelong learning and skill building.


  • People rated high on knowledge power are more than three times more likely to be viewed as role models than people low in knowledge power.  They are also significantly more skilled at taking the initiative to show others how to do things and at supporting and encouraging others, which makes them more likely to act as coaches, mentors, and teachers and more likely to be attractive to others in those roles.  People want to emulate them.  They are inspiring because they are so knowledgeable and highly skilled.  People want to learn from them.  Being viewed as a role model increases the trust people have in you and the degree of respect they hold for you.


  • People rated high on knowledge power also rate high on having a logical and rational approach to leadership and influence.   They lead from a base of knowledge or skill and have credibility as leaders based on their superior knowledge.  Credibility is an important element in leadership effectiveness because people are less likely to follow someone who knows less than they do and whose decisions could therefore be prone to mistakes.  In short, people want leaders who know what they’re doing, whose judgments they can trust, and who operate from a base of assurance.

  • They excel at engaging others, at making connections—and at asking provocative questions.  Their knowledge and skill give them insights that enable them to ask the right questions and engage others in a dialogue.

  • They are nearly three times more likely to form alliances with others, to work together as a means of having greater impact within organizations. 


  • Their knowledge and skill make them attractive alliance partners.  Consequently, they are also better at building and using networks to extend their influence. 

  • People rated high in knowledge power also tend to be rated significantly higher in finding creative alternatives, analyzing and displaying data visually, and asking insightful questions.  In short, they excel at cognitive and analytical skills.  What’s unexpected is that they are also significantly higher rated at having insight into what others value and building consensus.  Their knowledge advantage appears to translate into insights about people and effectiveness at bringing disparate points of view together to build agreement. 


Other Power Source Correlations
with Knowledge Power

High knowledge power is correlated with the other sources of power as shown in this table:

The strong correlations with character and reputation are especially noteworthy.  Being highly knowledgeable and skilled may actually enhance your character, making you more honest and courageous, or it may enhance others’ perceptions of your integrity and courage.  Moreover, having high knowledge power goes hand in hand with having a stronger reputation.  The more you know, the more highly others think of you.

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