Formal and Informal Power

InformalFormalPowerThe source of organizational power can be either personal influence, formal position, or both.

Official position can be determined by the range of rewards and punishments a leader can use. A leader typically receives this authority from his boss.

Personal power is characterized by the degree your team trusts and respects you, as well as your ability to create an aura of positive team climate and collaboration.

Formal authority is not a constraint based on certain position within the organization. Leaders holding the same position within the organization can have completely different formal authorities.

Actual formal power depends on your boss’s desire to delegate his/her responsibility.  This means that power of formal authority transfers in the organization downward.

Informal power is obtained from your team members. That is why a good leader should remember that his informal power might not last forever. Your team members can quickly recall this privilege from you.  

Sometimes, it is enough to make several mistakes to see how fast you will lose your supporters. Your informal power should be earned daily.

There is a very important relationship between formal and informal power.

The level of formal authority delegated to you by your boss mainly depends on the strength of your informal power, based on his/her perception. In other words, how much does your team want you to lead them?

On the other side of the coin, the level of your informal power depends to certain degree on the strength of your formal authority, which strongly depends on your team members perception. In other words, the range of rewards and punishments you are authorized to use.

It is not enough to get formal authority from your boss and trust from your team members. You really need to prove to them that you actually OWN the POWER. I will address how to do that in my future articles.

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