To lead or influence people effectively, you must have a sufficient power base. There are eleven sources of power: five personal sources (knowledge, expressiveness, history, attraction, and character), five organizational sources (role, resources, information, network, and reputation), and one meta-source, will). Below is a brief explanation of each of these power sources. For a more comprehensive explanation of them, see my book The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence (January 2011).
Power in people is like power in batteries. The higher the voltage of a battery, the more electromotive force it can deliver and thus the more impact it can have. A 1,000-volt battery is far more powerful than a 10-volt battery. Likewise, people with greater sources of power are better able to lead and influence others than people with fewer and lesser sources of power. The more powerful you are, the more influence you will have.
The Eleven Sources of Power
Knowledge power: what you know and what you can do. Your knowledge as well as your skills, talents, and abilities.
Expressiveness power: your ability to communicate powerfully and effectively in speech and writing.
History power: shared experiences, familiarity, and trust with people close to you.
Attraction power: your ability to cause others to like you and want to be with you.
Character power: your character, including your integrity, honesty, fairness, courage, kindness, modesty, prudence.
Role power: power derived from your role in an organization. The legitimate power and authority vested in your role.
Resource power: your ownership or control of important resources (such as wealth or natural resources).
Information power: your access to and control of information.
Network power: power derived from the breadth and quality of your connections with other people.
Reputation power: how you are thought of by others in your community (team, organization, or society).
Will power: your desire to be more powerful coupled with the courage to act.
The Eleven Sources of Power
Personal Power Sources
Your knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities, as well as your learning, wisdom, and accomplishments. Power derived from what you know and can do. People rated high in knowledge power are three times more influential than people rated low in knowledge power.
The ability to attract others by causing them to like you. Based on physical attractiveness as well as authenticity; commonality of values, attitudes, or beliefs; personality; character; wisdom; shared experience; and many other factors. Globally, one of the strongest power sources. High ratings on this power source more than triple your influence effectiveness.
Your ability to communicate powerfully and effectively in written and oral forms. Power based on the clarity, energy, conviction, and eloquence of speech. In its most powerful form, expressiveness is related to charisma. Building this power source will increase your influence effectiveness more than building any other power source. Expressiveness is strongly correlated with three other power sources: character, attraction, and reputation.
Shorthand for history with the person you are trying to lead or influence. This is power derived from familiarity and trust with another person. It is based on the psychological principles of liking, similarity, and reciprocity. Between people who know each other well, this can be the most important power source. High ratings on history power are strongly correlated with high ratings on interpersonal skills.
Power based on people's perceptions of your character, including such elements of character as integrity, honesty, fairness, courage, kindness, modesty, prudence, and so on. A significant source of personal power. Ranked #1 globally.
Organizational Power Sources
Power derived from your role in a group, organization, or community. The legitimate power and authority vested in a role or position. Can be a significant source of power but can also lead to abuses of power if not used wisely. Is strongest when combined with high ratings on character, attraction, knowledge, expressiveness, and reputation power.
Power derived from the breadth and quality of your connections with other people. Based on the social capital of network members through reciprocal respect, admiration, favor granting, and collaboration. A substantial source of organizational power. High ratings on this power source can triple your influence effectiveness and make you twice as inspirational as people with low network power.
Power derived from your ownership or control of important resources (such as wealth, labor, territory, time, or natural resources) that other people value and need. Typically, not a strong source of power for most people.
Your access to and control of information. This power source has five elements that form the mnemonic RADIO: retrieval, access, dissemination, interpretation, and organization. Together and separately, these capabilities enable people to lead and influence others through the effective deployment of information.
Power based on an estimation of the overall quality of a person by others in a community (team, organization, or society) to which the person belongs. A significant source of power for people who are well thought of and a significant power drain for those with poor reputations. High ratings on this power source more than triple your influence effectiveness and significantly increase the likelihood that others will follow you.
Meta Power Source
Power based on your desire to be more powerful coupled with the courage to act. This power comes from within and can magnify every other source of power. It depends entirely on your decision to act, on your passion and commitment, but also your energy and action. Will power is different from desire and longing. It comes not from the impulse to act but from acting on the impulse. The most important power source of all. Compared to low will power, high will power can increase your leadership and influence effectiveness by a factor of ten. In The Elements of Power, I cite examples of otherwise ordinary people who have accomplished a great deal through the sheer force of their will.