A key and critical skill as a project manager is the ability to effectively navigate the political landscape of the organization, while understanding the culture and environment in which the projects will be performed. There are a number of different types of power that can be used regardless of whether the project manager has positional authority. These approaches aren’t “right” or “wrong”, rather they need to be applied appropriately with mature judgement based on the circumstances.
Positional – Power that is granted by the organization or an authority. Also known as formal, authoritative or legitimate power. When the project manager is granted authority in the project charter, this is considered positional power.
Informational – The power to gather and disseminate information related to the project.
Referent – Power that comes through individuals respecting the project manager and through the credibility gained by the project manager.
Situational – Power that is gained during a specific or unique situation, such as during an emergency.
Personal or Charismatic – Power granted because the project manager is liked and has an agreeable and pleasant personality.
Relational – Power developed through networking and connections with others in which relationships are cultivated and alliances are created.
Expert – Power that is based on a respect for the expertise and knowledge of the project manager.
Reward – Power that is generated by the ability to offer something of value to the team members, such as monetary incentives, time off, or praise.
Punitive / Coercive – The power to influence based on fear of punishment or negative consequences.
Ingratiating – Power that is granted based on flattery or platitudes to win favor with the team.
Pressure-based – Power derived from limiting the individuals’ freedom of choice to gain compliance to the desired action.
Guilt-based – Power that results from making individuals feel guilty if they do not comply, such as a sense of duty or moral obligation.
Persuasive – Power arrived at by communicating in a manner that compels action from the individuals.