How standing in your power can influence those around you

Nov 10, 2022

Everyone’s got an edge these days; there are influencers everywhere and most of them embrace their personal power. 

Personal power, that is your own individual power, is possible for everyone. It’s not about authority over people, or positional power such as hierarchical power at work. It’s not about coercion or rewards. It’s about belief.

Your own belief and truth in yourself, and owning it. It’s about what’s important to you. You know what you are capable of, you know your strengths, and you also own your weaknesses. 

That ownership, and confidence and awareness, can afford the power or ability to influence others and change outcomes. The power is determined by not you, but those around you. 

Understanding your Power

There are many types of power, including coercive, reward and legitimate. The police or the principal, the CEO and the King have those powers respectively, and these we won’t be discussing. 

We want to talk about two other types of power, organic ones that, without fanfare or job titles, can make a difference. 

Expert Power

Expert power is the ability to be recognised as an expert in your chosen field regardless of your position within an organisation or in life. 

It’s the girl in finance who knows how to use a new software program being introduced to the department, who can share her knowledge for the benefit of her colleagues and the business. 

It’s the girl guide in the high school class on the class camping trip. 

It’s the Aunt who has a love of baking, who’s the go-to for advice and recipes for the school fundraiser. 

It’s that friend who’s a project manager, when you decide to study project management. 

It’s being seen as the go-to for some direction, to make decisions and improve outcomes in the subject you are ‘expert’ in. To increase and maintain expert power, you need to take workplace opportunities, be on top of your game and remain current in your ‘expertise’, continue to study professional development in your chosen area. 

Referent Power

Referent power is the capacity to be seen as being good, or admired as someone that treats others well, while having charisma and emanating trust. It’s more personal than expert. 

It’s not easy, it’ll take practice to wear it until it feels comfortable. You’ll need to respect other people’s time and actively listen.  It’s about making people feel comfortable in your space, and being inclusive. 

So, it’s about being real, projecting confidence when you are speaking about what you know well and believe, but it’s also about relinquishing gracefully when someone else has something to say and helping them feel seen, heard and appreciated. 

Being fearlessly authentic, owning your confidence, and being respectful, in perfect harmony, will afford you trust and respect from those around you, regardless of your ‘expert’ techniques. 

A great example would be the boss at work, who puts his family first, even during business hours, and allows his teams to do the same. He’s empathic, fair and his teams would admire him for that, outside of his title and status. It contributes to a great culture and inspires loyalty.

Michelle Obama has referent power. She stepped outside of the traditional First Lady role to inspire people through her passion, humanity and charisma, to support the social causes that she embraced, such as poverty and inequality. 

Closer to home, our indigenous trailblazers, Nova Peris-Kneebone, Cathy Freeman and Jessica Mauboy, have all used their talent to highlight the abilities, strength and importance of Australia’s indigenous communities and peoples, bringing reconciliation, racism and indigenous rights to the conversation in politics and on the ground. 

Perhaps, more significantly we’ve also seen two very brave young women stepping out of the dark shadows of sexism and sexual assault to highlight the issue frankly and honestly. Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame have become the face of modern feminism, despite the backlash both have faced. They are both real and relatable, and Tame’s anger is authentic and acceptable, as the issues they advocate for and fight against are toxic, divisive and polarising. They bring humanity and a belief to a truly devastating premise. 

Why Is Your Power So Important? 

While expert power is about knowledge and experience, and referent power is rooted in trust, respect and admiration, they are often not mutually exclusive, they often stand together. 

Think about this … the best leaders don’t succeed by just wielding their legitimate power, people will get sick of them if they can’t back it up with either expert or referent power, or both. 

Your personal power is important to you and those around you because what you give out, comes back at you: 

  • In the workplace, a referent leader has the ability to reduce stress, decrease bad or unproductive behaviour and encourages open communication. 
  • Referent power builds strong relationships and friendships.
  • It encourages buy-in, which means getting things done faster, with greater outcomes.
  • Loyalty and honesty begets loyalty and honesty. It comes back to you, and encourages the same from others.  
  • It offers safety for those around, and confidence in those that interact with you. 
  • It strengthens community and culture.

Those that stand in their personal power are often changemakers, innovators, the best of leaders making a difference to those around them. 

Standing in your power, and owning it, offers only positive outcomes. Real or organic personal power enables you to make a difference without selling your soul. It has the power to enrich your life, as well as those around you, and elevate success and fulfilment for everyone, to impact the world one heartbeat at a time.