Assumed Power in a Void

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Bases of Social Power > Best Practices > Assumed Power in a Void

Assumed Power in a Void
John Henry, Manager, United States, Member
Another type of power is that which is created in a void (Ed: ~ empty space) of leadership, that is assumed power. No one is exerting power in an area, so someone assumes that role, and the power is by consensus granted to them. There is no basis for this power but it might be called "king of the hill" power as the first one to assume the power role has to be "removed" for another to gain that power.
An example, real life... The power the administrative assistant has within an organization by virtue of their proximity to real power.

Assumed Power
kierdorff, Manager, Netherlands, Member
Dear John, interesting concept... Could it be that a management intentionally sustains this situation? For example, to keep motivation high without actually granting a higher position?

Assumed Power
Alberto Acuna, Manager, Chile, Member
Reading this comment, a similar type of power comes to my mind which is the power given by employees, a sort of reversed delegation.

We all have Some Power Base
Prashant Dhodapkar, India, Member
I think that the "sources of power" should make us realize that each one of us is empowered (or achieves a power base) in one way or the other. One should not think in terms of progression from one type of power to another. This may amount to manipulative behavior in organizations or society.

Another Example of Assumed Power
Art Straub, Consultant, United States, Member
I find assumed power to be real, but I'm not sure of the example (admin assistant). I have seen assumed power in the technology industry. A new technology is introduced and a company can ignore it, sticking to the legacy technology. But when the market shifts and that technology grows in importance, someone who has taken the time to learn how to use the technology can step up and run with it, assuming or acquiring (expert) power.

Assumed Power
Mita Dixit, Management Consultant, India, Member
John's concept is interesting. In family owned-and-managed businesses, I have seen this as a common phenomenon. A family member or a distant relative just by being connected to the owner through family ties, enjoys 'assumed (referent) power'.

Enabling Empowerment
Otavio Alexandre Da Silva, Brazil, Member
As leadership, are we creating an atmosphere suitable for all those moves?

Stabilizing Power
Paul White-Quinn, Student (University), United Kingdom, Member
In my organisation recently the power hungry all came hunting when the top of the ladder person moved on and it was met with chaos. As with the wolves and rabbits all got in each others way and the only way to settle the situation was bring in one hunter who stabilized the packs and keeps them separate now.
It was not what the CEO planned, but the result of too many people being over enthusiastic about their ability.

Assumed Power
kierdorff, Manager, Netherlands, Member
Reading the explanations and examples, could I say that assumed power is not initiated by an individual, but by his environment which assumes power, based on how he dresses (uniform), where he works, what information he provides or who he is related to?

How to Get Power
Sarang D., Analyst, India, Member
The definition of Power as per Oxford Dictionary: "The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events". It's interesting how you control the behaviour of others. 'The Fountainhead', a book by Ayn Rand explains this very well.

Assuming / Getting Power
Joe Cocchini, Analyst, United States, Member
Assuming a free society (by Machievellian standards), I believe the most efficient (capable, powerful, directed) method of assuming / getting power over others is to first display the triad of:
- Control over one's self,
- A desire if not intention to elevate one's class and not just oneself, and
- Altruism.
These traits tend to allow others to share their personal power with oneself without regret, allowing that one to function as a focal point, and thereby satisfying the desire in men's hearts to belong to something truly greater, and not just truly larger, than themselves.

The Problem with Assumed Power
Mohamed Hisham
The problem with assumed power is, sometimes with the leadership instinct we tempt to take that role, but unfortunately next time it becomes your job. People expect you to do that next time as given. Correct me if I am wrong.

Assumed Power
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
I agree with John Henry's comments regarding assumed power. An administrative assistant certainly holds assumed power, whether she/he wishes to or not. I have personally been in this role in several companies in my career, and hadn't considered that I possessed assumed power, even though I wasn't the designed leader.

Power versus Force
M.B. Mphahlele, Consultant, South Africa, Member
Real power is spontenous and complete and non-coercive. Coercive power generates resistance and require resource allocation in order to sustain it. E.g. defence budget, security, etc. Complete power will continue to manifest itself external even if the individual who advocated or possessed it is no more. For example Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..' We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"
Or Nelson Mandela's "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Whether Martin Luther King or Mandela or Ghandi or J. F. Kennedy are there or not: the power, manifested in their ideals, lives on. I find David Hawkins 'Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior' a very useful reference on the subject of power.

Intentional Assumed Power
V. L. KHUZWAYO, Student (MBA), South Africa, Member
I fully agree with Wim Kierdorff, this is a very interesting concept by John Henry. It is also true that management sometimes intentionally sustains this situation for cheap labour purposes. Some organisations realise the importance of this assumed power and pay personal assistants handsomely due to assumed power they wield in their organisations. This phenomenon is common in South Africa because the unemployment rate is very high and even graduates settle for very low administrative jobs where one way or the other and due to their educational level they seem to wield this kind of power. Interesting.

Amazing Responses
John Henry, Manager, United States, Member
I think, assumed power is utilized all the time.
Sometimes it is the person who has the responsibility to give access to a building, who gains the power to determine who should go where.
Sometimes it is the secretary / personal assistant who maintains the CEO's calendar who controls who sees the CEO.
Sometimes the person who trains others on the use of a new program or technology gains that power.
Sometimes even having the same last name as the boss, if you are audacious enough (even if not related), others will assume you have power.
I am continuing to watch this...

Short Lived
Patrack Mashiri, Student (MBA), South Africa, Member
I think assumed power could be short lived once people realize its probably short lived.

Relation with the Boss
Nikhita S Pemgirikar, India, Member
Just because someone has some relation with the owner of the business many people give or employees give such power to them.

Informal Power Structures
Rene de Guzman, Professor, Philippines, Member
We should also take into consideration informal power structures as opposed to referent power or power through association. The informal power of a network of secretaries is an example and it pays for an executive to recognize this power structure.

Where Does Assumed Power Originate From
annette bristol-martin, Student (University), Trinidad and Tobago, Member
Anyone can assume power once they believe they are in control and if there are followers who submit to their command. This power can be for a short period or an extended period of time.

Assumed Power Through Creating Dependency
Rene Green
Yes, I affirm Anette Bristol-Martin's viewpoint that anyone can assumed power. This can happen without control or a need to control but to obtain power and influence only. An individual needs to only create needs for others to depend on them. In an organization, I utilize dependency as one form of organizational behavior as leader-manager.

Ignorance Assumed Power
Donato ochan Hakim, Interim Manager, Sudan, Member
In any work place there is an organization chart showing various positions from the highest to lowest. Each employee of the organization is served with a job description to guide them on what to do.
However some staff members sometimes assume certain powers out of ignorance. Just recently, in my capacity as executive director of an organization I ordered an activity to be suspended for the most urgent one. To my surprise the staff member concerned threatened me with resignation if her work is not given a chance to go ahead. I just laughed because she believes that being the head of the section, she has the power to say no to her supervisor. She ignorantly assumed power based on the position she holds as the head of the section, forgetting that the interests of the organization must come first. Ignorant assumed power can be dangerous in an organization. If someone was in my shoes, would you fire the staff involved for being disobedient? Your chance...

Ignorance Assumed Power
Art Straub, Consultant, United States, Member
I have never worked in an organization where the organizational chart and job descriptions answered all of the questions. When something new arises, if the formal management does not step up to deal with it, someone else must. I was once a part of an unofficial team that had a different view of the future than management. When our expectations became reality, our preparations played a large role in saving the company.

Nequaquam Vacuum
Ricardo Gonzalez R, Financial Consultant, Mexico, Member
Anyone can assume the power. In growing organizations there are frequently departments in which there is no a leader. In these cases anyone can make the decisions and take the power.
'Nequaquam vacuum' (Ed: ~By no means an empty void exists).

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