Organisational power

The powers and duties of directors were the focus of some earlier posts, however these make quite narrow use of the concept of ‘power’ – which has many forms and applications.

My previous post dealt with powers legally (and therefore legitimately) afforded non-profit boards and directors, and made reference to those powers being distinctly different to other expressions of power, such as ‘power over’, ‘power with’ and ‘power within’. The header image above offers definitions for each of these, which may aid your reflection on the distinctions.

Types of Power

French and Raven catalogued the bases of social power in 1959, and while there have been some later variations on this typology, their analysis continues to be widely used today.

The chart below positions legitimate power (the right to exercise control) adjacent to informational power, at the boundary between the major categories of positional and personal power. While coercion often involves the abuse of power, from an organisational perspective, it also accommodates the authority to impose sanctions for non-compliance with policies or procedures. Getting the balance right in your organisation is a key determinant of your culture – and the likelihood that you will be identified as ‘an employer of choice’.

Sources of organisational power

Unpacking the sources of your legitimate organisational power a little further, the following schematic identifies various of the controls or ‘governance systems’ you are employing to achieve your purposes, and to meet performance and conformance obligations. Using this chart as a checklist of your control systems, you might identify some areas in which there are opportunities for improvement.

The power to delegate to committees or individuals is one such area, which many non-profits find tricky. This power is embedded within the ‘Use of organisational structure, rules and regulations’, and some reflections on this significant governance mechanism will be offered in a future post.

See also:

One thought on “Organisational power

Leave a Reply