The Meaning of Power

Instructions: Read the text and answer the comprehension check questions that follow.

Power is the capacity of a person, team or organisation to influence others. There are a few important features of this definition. First, power is not the act of changing someone’s attitudes or behaviour; it is only the potential to do so. People frequently have power they do not use; they might not even know they have power. Second, power is based on the target’s perception that the power holder controls (i.e. possesses, has access to or regulates) a valuable resource that can help the target achieve his or her goals. People might generate power by convincing others that they control something of value, whether or not they actually control that resource. This perception is also formed from the power holder’s behaviour, such as when someone is not swayed by authority or norms. For instance, one recent study found that people are perceived as more powerful just by their behaviour, such as putting their feet on a table. As an illustration of this, Bruno Iksi apparently created an image of power at JP Morgan by dressing more casually than other staff. However, power is not a personal feeling of power. You might feel powerful or think you have power over others, but this is not power unless others believe you have that capacity.


McShane. S., Olekalns, M., Newman, A., & Martin, A. (2019) Organisational behaviour. Emerging knowledge. Global Insights. 6e Asia-Pacific Edition. McGraw Hill Education.