Managerial Power and Credibility

A manager should not gauge “power” by the fact that he or she can fire employees, tell them what to do, make decisions about their salary or fire them if they want. Power cannot be equated to an office, a title or a bigger cubicle. Power is not illustrated by the fact you associate yourself with other managers.

A truly powerful manager is able to move employees to action not through coercion or intimidation but by influence. Influence is gained because employees know the manager is fair and equitable. They know the manager believes in their ideas and ability. They feel they have a stake in the success of the company because they’re allowed to risk and contribute.

The power gained by moving up in the organizational hierarchy isn’t enough to get results. In reality, establishing and maintaining credibility is how you’ll get results.

Power does come with your position. And, as a manager, you will have more formal authority, a higher status within your organization, and greater access to resources than you did as an individual contributor.

Instead of relying on your new power to bring results, focus on establishing your credibility. You can do this by demonstrating character and managerial competence, and using influence.

There are three components of credibility:

  • character – Demonstrate character by always striving to do the right thing. Others will understand this as dedication and sincerity. And they’ll come to depend and rely on you to do the right thing, which is priceless in your efforts to manage.
  • competence – One of the best ways to demonstrate managerial competence is to talk less and listen more. A manager’s job is to support and guide, not to dictate to people exactly what to do and how to do it. And when you stop to listen, you’ll likely learn valuable information and increase your expertise as a manager.
  • Influence – The influence you have over others stems from your character. If you work hard, display honesty and fairness, and demonstrate knowledge, competency, and reliability, you’ll positively influence people. Consistency in your actions and behavior will help you build and keep this influence. Good communication skills can also contribute to your effectiveness in influencing others.

Theory X and Theory Y

Theory X and Theory Y were first explained by McGregor in his book, ‘The Human Side of Enterprise,’ and they refer to two styles of management – authoritarian (Theory X) and participative (Theory Y).

If you believe that your team members dislike their work and have little motivation, then, according to McGregor, you’ll likely use an authoritarian style of management. This approach is very “hands-on” and usually involves micromanaging people’s work to ensure that it gets done properly. McGregor called this Theory X.

Theory X managers tend to take a pessimistic view of their people, and assume that they are naturally unmotivated and dislike work. As a result, they think that team members need to be prompted, rewarded or punished constantly to make sure that they complete their tasks.

Work in organizations that are managed like this can be repetitive, and people are often motivated with a “carrot and stick” approach. Performance appraisals

and remuneration are usually based on tangible results, such as sales figures or product output, and are used to control staff and “keep tabs” on them.

On the other hand, if you believe that your people take pride in their work and see it as a challenge, then you’ll more likely adopt a participative management style. Managers who use this approach trust their people to take ownership of their work and do it effectively by themselves. McGregor called this Theory Y.

Theory Y managers understand their role is to coach and support their employees. They give them honest, constructive feedback. They recognize employee efforts by saying thanks. They recognize their own shortcomings by asking their employees for help. They step aside and let employees enjoy the limelight when the team is successful. They demonstrate their confidence in employees by saying, “What do you think we should do?”


Employees look to their leaders for continual direction and motivation. It can be exceedingly difficult to lead a team toward common goals if you have not established a credible rapport with your employees first. But what actually factors into your credibility? There’s no single leadership characteristic that will answer this question.

Ways to build your credibility as a leader for more effective operations.

  • Don’t Lie or Overpromise – Trust plays an enormous role in workplace relationships. These bonds can crumple in stressful situations, especially if you’ve misled your employees with false information or promising too much. You might be tempted to stretch the truth occasionally, to keep your team motivated. But half-truths or inaccurate information can come back to haunt you, once your team discovers that you were wrong. Be as transparent as possible with your employees. If you’re unable to disclose certain company information, then just say so, instead of using circuitous explanations or lies to avoid a tense topic. Build a reputation for being a trustworthy source of accurate information, and your employee will take notice.
  • Take Responsibility – Managers are responsible for the overall successes and failures of their respective teams. Be receptive to corrections and don’t be afraid of facing your own mistakes. Managers who try to pass the buck and the blame onto their employees can quickly lose credibility. If your plans are not working, then own up to your failures and try a new strategy.
  • Don’t Linger on the Details – As a leader, you must continually keep your eyes on the big picture. Your employees are there to handle everyday operations, tasks, and interactions. Don’t let minor obstacles interrupt your focus on the big picture. For example, if an employee receives unfavorable customer feedback as a one-off, don’t hang onto this incident forever. Show your employees that you are capable of moving on toward greater future success, and they will follow suit.
  • Cultivate Expertise – Managers who know very little about the work they oversee can quickly lose credibility. You won’t be expected to know every little detail regarding subject matter, but professional knowledge is crucial when it comes to making daily operational decisions. Managers with subject matter deficiencies can also make decisions that put employees at risk, especially if they do not understand common dangers. If you feel underequipped to lead a particular team, see if your company offers additional training or academic programs so that you can grow into your leadership role. Managers who make a clear effort to gain further expertise in their fields will gain respect from their fellow employees.
  • Professionalism – Many novice managers make the disastrous mistake of trying to be friends with their employees. This could work out for the short term, but it can lead to issues of workplace nepotism, decreased productivity, and a lack of credibility over time. Managers must maintain a certain level of professional distance so that they can assign tasks and review employee performance without bias.

Understanding Your Freedom

Organizational interdependencies mean managers need the cooperation of others to get work done. This translates into less freedom to make decisions and take action. Unlike when you were an individual contributor and enjoyed relative autonomy to do your job, now you must consult with and gain the support of a network of colleagues. But you can compensate for the lack of freedom by building a network of mutually beneficial relationships, sharing your power, and exchanging valued resources. Building these relationships helps build your credibility so when you need help, you’ll be more likely to get it.

Things to consider as a new manager:

  • building a network – You’ll learn quickly as a manager that your success depends largely on cooperative efforts. You need to work to build a network of mutually beneficial relationships with individuals outside your team and on whom your team depends to do its work.
  • sharing power – Sharing your power has advantages – it will increase your credibility and influence. Sometimes this means sharing resources; however, it may also mean sharing advice or knowledge, or simply acknowledging and accepting the contributions of others.
  • exchanging valued resources – Providing the resources your direct reports need to do their jobs is your job. An organization’s resources are limited, so sometimes you’ll need to negotiate for the resources you need. Exchanging valued resources with others in your organization can help you get the resources you need – such as talent, finances, or support.
Identifying Required Managerial Skills
Succeeding as a First-time Manager

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