Most people have heard about the various types of managerial power within organizations. Yet, it still terrifies me when managers default to, and delight in, the use of coercive power. It’s equally as pointless as it is ridiculous.
For those who haven’t heard of coercive power, and as a reminder for those who have, I’ll give you a quick overview. Coercive power stems from the ability to administer both rewards and punishments. In an organizational sense, it typically refers to the power for a manager to threaten to, or actually deliver either discipline or allocate undesirable work tasks.
“Authentic leaders rarely, if ever, rely on coercive power to accomplish objectives.”
What’s unfortunate is that many new managers, and indeed some more experienced managers, think that coercive power is the only tool available. They jump at the opportunity to show off their power to discipline subordinates as if it’s some kind of trophy. And of course, employees respond absolutely negatively. In fact, there is practically no place for coercive power inside a healthy organization.
Authentic leaders rarely, if ever, rely on coercive power to accomplish objectives. Instead true leaders utilize referent power, or charisma, in combination with expert power. But it’s not that simple. You see, legitimate leaders understand power, but do not use it consciously. Legitimate managerial power is less like a tool kept in your toolbox, and more like a wonderful cologne. You don’t pull it out and use it at specific times, it follows you around and lends you some real value without you even thinking about it.