Power and Influence

The processes of Power are complex. The phenomena between Power and Influence involve a dynamic relation.  There are different Elements of Power.  Power is mostly seen within relationships. The two essentials of power are one’s resources and one’s motivation.

Eric Burn writes in his books about communication, that people play games to get what they want. Most people are driven by their own desires and will play a role dependent on the circumstances and the preferred outcomes for themselves.

According to the theory power has 7 bases.

  1. Coercive power –a power that is based on fear.
  2. Legitimate power – according to the positional level of a person.
  3. Expert power – based on knowledge, skills and talents of the person.
  4. Reward power – the ability to provide rewards to others.
  5. Referent power – based on the leaders personal traits.
  6. Informational power – the ability of the leader that gives information.
  7. Connection power – leader’s ability to network.

On a psychological level power can be interpreted by others both negatively and positively.  When power is used positively most people react in a positive way, but when power is used in a negative way people eventually react and behave negatively against the power.

Recent research indicates that influential people are people that consist of more than one of the above 7 basis of power.  To have positive influence on others is inspirational and motivational.

Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”.

B.F. Skinner is the father of behavior modification and developed the concept of positive reinforcement.  Positive reinforcement occurs when a positive stimulus is presented in response to a behavior, increasing the likelihood of that behavior in the future.

The use of positive reinforcement is a successful and growing technique used by leaders to motivate and attain desired behaviors from subordinates. Many major organizations have used reinforcement to increase productivity.  Additionally, other reinforcement techniques such as the use of praise are inexpensive, providing higher performance for lower costs.

Leadership can be perceived as a particularly emotion-laden process, with emotions entwined with the social influence process.  In an organization, the leader’s mood has some effects on his/her group.  These effects can be described in three levels:

  1. The mood of individual group members.
  2. The affective tone of the group.
  3. Group processes like coordination, effort expenditure, and task strategy.  Public expressions of mood impact how group members think and act.  When people experience and express mood, they send signals to others.  Leaders signal their goals, intentions and attitudes through their expressions of moods.  For example, expressions of positive moods by leaders signal that leaders deem progress toward goals to be good.  The group members respond to those signals cognitively and behaviorally in ways that are reflected in the group processes.

It is well known that a person as a whole can be defined within his/her body, soul and spirit. Within our body we have power and influence on ourselves and others. Within our soul, the way we think, feel and decide to do, have a influence on ourselves and on others, and within our spirit, the way we life our spirituality also influence ourselves and others around us. In other words, what we decide to do whether in our body, soul or spirit, will influence ourselves and others around us.

There are also different forms of influence within certain groups. Groups can have certain pressure that it as a group put on the individuals. Only one such a influence will be describe within the child environment.

Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group, encouraging individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors in order to conform to group norms.  A person affected by peer pressure may or may not want to belong to a certain group.  They may also recognize dissociative groups with which they would not wish to associate, and thus they behave adversely concerning that group’s behaviour patterns.

Peer pressure is most commonly associated with youth, in part because most youth spend large amounts of time in schools and other fixed groups that they do not choose.  Youth are generally seen as lacking the maturity to handle pressure from friends.  Also, young people are more willing to behave negatively towards those who are not members of their own peer groups.

Peer pressure can also have positive effects when people are pressured toward positive behavior, such as volunteering for charity or excelling in academics or athletics, by their peers.  This is most commonly seen amongst youth who are active in sports or other extracurricular activities where conformity with one’s peer group is strongest.

An explanation of how the peer pressure process works, called “the identity shift effect”, is introduced by social psychologist, Wendy Treynor, who weaves together Festinger’s two seminal social-psychological theories (on dissonance, which addresses internal conflict, and social comparison, which addresses external conflict) into a unified whole.  According to Treynor’s original “identity shift effect” hypothesis, the peer pressure process works in the following way: One’s state of harmony is disrupted when faced with the threat of external conflict (social rejection) for failing to conform to a group standard.  Thus, one conforms to the group standard, but as soon as one does, eliminating this external conflict, internal conflict is introduced (because one has violated one’s own standards).  To rid oneself of this internal conflict (self-rejection), an “identity shift” is undertaken, where one adopts the group’s standards as one’s own, thereby eliminating internal conflict (in addition to the formerly eliminated external conflict) and returning one to a state of harmony.  Even though the peer pressure process begins and ends with one in a (conflict-less) state of harmony, as a result of conflict and the conflict resolution process, one leaves with a new identity—a new set of internalized standards.

Power and influence can be inspirational to help people to become the best that they can be!  Use them most effectively to gain the greatest benefit!


Mariette le Roux

Educational Psychologistby