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Need To Up Your Professional Voltage?

Plug in to five major power sources for success

up professional voltagePower at work is like power in a battery—more voltage, more impact.

Yet, today, almost one-half of working professionals say they are dissatisfied with their jobs, according to a recent survey by consulting firm Accenture. Only 30 percent, however, have any plans to switch employers. The rest, seven out of ten, say they want to power up—increase their voltage—and pursue better opportunities in-house. If you’re one of them, I’ve got good news.

According to my research—a study of power and influence among leaders worldwide—you have 11 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 are five such power sources and, wherever you’re at on the org chart, how to plug in and up your professional voltage.

  1. Knowledge powerYour 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 rated high in knowledge power are three times more influential than their lower-rated counterparts.How to plug in to 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 through social media; coach or mentor others; make the most of opportunities, internal and external, for training and education; commit to continuous learning.
  2. Expressiveness powerYour 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 leaders’ influence more than any other power source.How to plug in to 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 POV on hot company topics and, prior to meetings, practice stating it simply and succinctly; study the speaking greats, past and present, and scrutinize their style and skills.
  3. Attraction powerYour 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 physical, but it can also be based on warmth, wisdom, personality, shared experiences, or common values. 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 in to 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; let go of your masks and be yourself.
  4. Character powerYour 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 a vital lesson 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; consider the consequences of your choices, decisions, and actions.
  5. Network powerYour 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 in to 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; build connections outside of your organization and physical location.

Finally, your will power is well worth a mention. A meta-source 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.

About Terry R. Bacon

Terry R. Bacon, Ph.D., is a Scholar in Residence at the Korn/Ferry Institute and the author of numerous books on leadership, management, and personal development. His new book is The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence. Visit his website for more information.


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