Leveraging your power at work

Power at work is like power in a battery -- more voltage means more impact.

Today, almost half of working professionals say that they're dissatisfied with their jobs, according to a recent survey by consulting firm Accenture. However, only 30% of the respondents said that they have plans to switch employers. The remaining 70% said they want to pursue better opportunities in-house. If you're one of the latter, I've got good news for you.

According to my research on power and influence among leaders worldwide, you have numerous sources of power available to you at work, some stemming from your position in the company and others from your personal attributes and abilities. Here's a look at five power sources and ways to plug in and increase your professional voltage, no matter where you are on the org chart.

1. Knowledge power

Your knowledge power represents what you know and what you can do. It embodies your talents, skills and abilities, as well as your wisdom and accomplishments. Leaders who rate high in knowledge power are three times more influential than their lower-rated counterparts.

How to plug into your knowledge power: Develop an area of distinctive knowledge, skills or capabilities; apply your knowledge to achieve demonstrable results or advance your organization; write about what you know in articles, on blogs and in social media; coach or mentor others; make the most of opportunities, internal and external, for training and education; and commit to continuous learning.

2. Expressiveness power

Your expressiveness power is your eloquence -- your ability to communicate powerfully and persuasively in speaking and writing. In its most dynamic form, the power of eloquence can increase a leader's influence more than any other power source.

How to plug into your expressiveness power: Learn to love language (or to articulate as if you do); take a class on public speaking; build up your writing skills; ask trusted colleagues to critique your presentations; know your point of view on hot company topics and, prior to meetings, practice stating it simply and succinctly; and study the speaking greats, past and present, and scrutinize their style and skills.

3. Attraction power

Your attraction power reflects your ability to draw people to you -- to cause them to like you and prefer you to others. The attraction may be based on warmth, wisdom, personality, shared experiences, common values or physical appearance. Universally, attraction power is one of the most potent power sources, and high ratings here can more than triple a leader's influence and effectiveness.

How to plug into your attraction power: Take pride in your appearance; go out of your way to be open, friendly, kind, caring and considerate; talk less and listen more; smile and show a sense of humor; learn to tell a good story; and let go of your masks and be yourself.

4. Character power

Your character power is based on others' perceptions of your honesty, integrity, fairness, courage and humility. Regardless of who you are or how highly regarded you might be in every other respect, the power of character matters. For leaders, it's also vital to remember that the rules apply to everyone.

How to plug in to your character power: Walk your talk; be honest, humble and evenhanded. If your character is justly called into question, acknowledge what went wrong, accept responsibility, and act to make things right. If your character is unfairly called into question, work to understand why and correct any misperceptions; and consider the consequences of your choices, decisions and actions.

5. Network power

Your network power is derived from the depth and breadth of your connections with others. A rapidly evolving power source -- intensified today by social media -- it comes not only from who you know but also the accessibility and power sources of those persons. Leaders rated high in network power are twice as inspirational and three times as influential as their lower-rated counterparts.

How to plug into your network power: Develop a reliable expertise in an important area; collect and circulate information; be accessible, responsive and helpful; do favors for people (no strings attached); involve and connect people through activities, projects and events; and build connections outside of your organization and physical location.

Finally, your will power is well worth a mention. A metasource of power, it comes from within and depends entirely on your courage to act. Walt Whitman called will power "personal force" -- the will to do something when others merely dream or talk about it. No one else gives, or takes away, the power of will. That power source is entirely up to you.

Terry R. Bacon is a Scholar in Residence at the Korn/Ferry Institute and the author of numerous books on leadership, management and personal development. His latest book is The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence. To learn more, see TheElementsofPower.com or TerryrBacon.com. Contact him at terry@terryrbacon.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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