Many people confuse rank with power. They mistakenly assume that because one is of a certain rank, one automatically assumes the power that goes with it. But professional power is not so easy to get and keep because it isn't really understood. Too many of us confuse status or rank at work with power but, while they are closely linked, status is acquired while power has to be given through authority, and many people are not aware of this subtle difference. Many managers, particularly new ones, suffer an initial lack of confidence because they have status/rank with no actual power.
The newly appointed director of a company immediately acquires the status and trappings of being a key member of the hierarchy. Any respect given will be based upon that fact and little else. He/She has no real power. The newcomer will be acknowledged simply as a director until everyone is satisfied that this person can actually do the job, and is also the right one for it. When that is proven, authority will be automatically granted and with that comes the power to influence and control the actions of others.
The limits of such power is evident in the following two scenarios. Unpopular managers who have the authority of their superiors but not of their subordinates could experience real problems because it is the workforce that makes or breaks a company. Leaders can plan strategy, motivate staff, harness resources and set objectives as much as they wish to, but if workers won't play the game, they will only achieve half as much. On the other hand, employees may regard a particular individual as de facto leader because of personal charisma and personality but if she/he does not have the support of the management, they will be bypassed and undermined at every turn by superiors. True power at work comes from being given the authority to get on with the job both by superiors and subordinates.
The worst damage to self-confidence usually comes from colleagues who deny the status of others and refuse to give them the authority they should have. Managers in unrewarding managerial positions, who cannot understand why they do not have the support of their staff, sometimes compensate for this loss of power by foolishly pulling rank (like reminding staff of their position) which only makes matters worse. This is because power in the workplace is a negotiated commodity. That person's authority has to be accepted by everyone it relates to before power is affirmed. Thus true power ultimately comes from being granted the recognition of one's status and the respect due by everyone involved. This usually carries with it the necessary authority to influence others and to make all the required decisions.
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"