The Surprising Impact of Personal Power on Team Performance

Team performance is vital to the success of any organization. It determines the achievement of goals, productivity, and company growth. Many factors contribute to high team performance, but one surprising factor that often goes unnoticed is personal power. Personal power comes in many forms and can be used to achieve great success.

In this article, we’ll explore how personal power influences team performance and how individuals can use it to become effective leaders and team members. From referent and expert power to high personal attributes and the five bases of power, we’ll assess the positive impact of personal power on teams and look at real-world examples of its use in successful organizations.

The impact of personal power on team performance

Understanding Power in the Workplace

Definition and Significance

Power plays a crucial role in the dynamics of any workplace. In organizational settings, power can be described as the ability to influence others, make decisions, and achieve desired outcomes. It is essential for individuals to comprehend the concept of power and its implications in order to navigate effectively within the workplace.

Personal and Positional Power

Power in the workplace can be broadly classified into two categories: personal power and positional power. Personal power refers to the influence derived from individual qualities, expertise, and relationships. It encompasses referent power, which is based on likability and charisma, as well as expert power, derived from knowledge and skills.

On the other hand, positional power is associated with formal roles and authority within the organizational structure. It includes legitimate power, obtained from hierarchical positions, and can also involve reward and coercive power, where individuals have the authority to provide or withhold rewards and sanctions.

Exploring Different Types of Power

Power is a critical element in the workplace. The ability to influence others and make decisions can make a significant difference in team dynamics and overall performance. Different types of power exist, each with its unique characteristics and effects on team dynamics. Let’s explore five common types of power: referent, expert, positional, reward, and legitimate power.

Referent Power

Referent power is derived from likability, charisma, and personal relationships. Individuals who possess referent power have a natural ability to connect with others, build trust, and inspire them to achieve shared goals. This type of power is often found in leaders who are respected and admired by their team members.

Example: An executive coach who inspires her clients to achieve their goals through her charismatic personality and likability.

The influence of referent power can have significant effects on team performance. Teams with leaders possessing referent power are likely to be more cooperative, motivated, and committed to achieving the team’s goals.

Expert Power

Expert power is based on skills, knowledge, and expertise. Individuals with expert power possess specialized knowledge that is valuable to their team. They are often respected for their proficiency in a particular area, and their guidance is sought after by their team members.

Example: A software developer who has in-depth knowledge of a specific programming language and is recognized as an expert in their field.

Expert power impacts team dynamics by improving the quality of decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation. Teams with leaders who possess expert power are more likely to make informed decisions, find creative solutions to problems, and demonstrate a higher level of performance.

Positional Power

Positional power refers to the authority and influence that come from formal roles and positions within an organization. Individuals with positional power have assigned roles and are responsible for making decisions that affect their teams.

Example: A company’s CEO has the power to make decisions regarding the company’s direction, finances, and operations.

The effects of positional power can be both positive and negative. While positional power provides the authority to make decisions, it can also lead to the misuse of power and create a culture of fear and intimidation within teams.

Reward Power

Reward power is the ability to provide positive incentives or rewards and is often used to motivate team members to achieve desired outcomes. Individuals with reward power might be in charge of deciding who to promote, assigning bonuses or commissions, or providing recognition for outstanding work.

Example: A sales manager who provides commission-based incentives for exceeding sales targets.

Reward power plays an integral role in motivating teams and driving their performance. Teams with leaders who effectively use reward power are more likely to feel motivated, engaged, and valued.

Legitimate Power

Legitimate power is derived from formal authority and hierarchical positions within an organization. Individuals with legitimate power have the authority to make final decisions on behalf of the organization and enforce rules and regulations.

Example: A manager who is responsible for enforcing the company’s policies and procedures.

Legitimate power can positively or negatively impact team dynamics. Leaders who misuse their legitimate power can create a culture of fear and mistrust within their teams, ultimately leading to poor performance.

Understanding the different types of power and how they influence team dynamics can help individuals become effective leaders and team members. By recognizing the impact of different types of power, individuals can identify their strengths and weaknesses and use them to drive positive change and achieve their desired outcomes.

The impact of personal power on team performance

Two Types of Personal Power: Internal and External

Personal power is a critical aspect of effective leadership, enabling leaders to influence others and drive success. Within the realm of personal power, there are two distinct types: internal and external. Understanding these two types can empower leaders to harness their personal power effectively. Let’s explore the differences between internal and external personal power.

Internal Personal Power

Internal personal power stems from within an individual. It is based on qualities such as self-confidence, self-awareness, and a strong sense of purpose. Leaders who possess internal personal power have a deep understanding of their values, strengths, and aspirations. They are authentic in their actions and demonstrate a genuine commitment to their team’s success.

Leaders with internal personal power are self-assured and capable of making decisions with conviction. They have a clear vision and trust their instincts, which inspires confidence among their team members. Their self-confidence radiates, influencing others to believe in their leadership and trust their guidance. Internal personal power empowers leaders to navigate challenges and setbacks with resilience, instilling determination and perseverance in their teams.

External Personal Power

External personal power, on the other hand, is derived from external factors such as authority, position, and connections. It involves the recognition and influence a leader garners from others due to their title or position in an organization. Leaders with external personal power lead with the authority granted to them by their role.

While external personal power can provide leaders with formal authority and the ability to make decisions, it is essential to balance it with internal personal power. Relying solely on external personal power may result in leading through fear or coercion, which can negatively impact team morale and engagement. To be an effective leader, combining internal personal power with external personal power is crucial.

Harnessing the Power of Both Types

Successful leaders harness the power of both internal and external personal power. By cultivating their internal personal power, leaders gain self-awareness, confidence, and a sense of purpose. They develop a strong understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and continually work towards personal growth and self-improvement.

Simultaneously, leaders utilize their external personal power to exert influence and make a positive impact on their teams and organizations. They leverage their positional authority to facilitate collaboration, drive change, and create an environment that enables their team members to thrive.

Combining internal and external personal power allows leaders to create an authentic and impactful leadership style. It enables them to inspire and motivate their team members while effectively navigating the complexities of their organizational roles.

The Importance of Personal Power in Leadership

In the realm of leadership, personal power emerges as a significant factor that drives success and influences team dynamics. While positional power is often associated with formal authority, personal power, specifically referent and expert power, plays a pivotal role in effective leadership. Let’s delve into the importance of personal power in leadership and its impact on team performance.

The Influence of Referent Power

Referent power, derived from likability and charisma, is a powerful force in leadership. Leaders who possess referent power are admired and respected by their team members, creating an environment of trust and loyalty. When team members genuinely like and trust their leader, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and committed to achieving the team’s objectives.

Effective leaders with referent power have the ability to inspire their team members to give their best efforts. They can rally the team around a shared vision, foster collaboration, and build a positive and productive work culture. Through their communication skills, emotional intelligence, and ability to connect with others, leaders with referent power create an environment where team members feel valued and empowered.

The Impact of Expert Power

Expert power, based on knowledge and expertise, is another crucial aspect of personal power in leadership. Leaders who possess expert power have specialized knowledge and skills that are invaluable to their teams. When team members perceive their leader as an expert in a particular subject area, they are more likely to trust the leader’s judgment and follow their guidance.

Leaders with expert power can positively influence team dynamics by providing valuable insights, making informed decisions, and guiding team members to achieve optimal results. Their expertise empowers team members to develop their skills, learn from their leader’s knowledge, and benefit from the leader’s experience. This, in turn, enhances the overall performance and capabilities of the team.

Balancing Personal Power with Positional Power

While personal power is crucial, it is important for leaders to strike a balance between personal power and positional power. Positional power, derived from formal authority, provides leaders with the ability to make decisions and enforce policies. However, relying solely on positional power can lead to resistance and limited engagement from team members.

Leaders who effectively balance personal power and positional power are more likely to create a positive and productive work environment. By combining the influence of likability, charisma, and expertise with the formal authority of their position, these leaders gain the respect and trust of their team members. They are seen as credible and competent leaders who can effectively guide the team towards achieving its objectives.

Ultimately, personal power in leadership is about building strong relationships, inspiring others, and leveraging expertise to drive team performance. Leaders who develop and harness their personal power have the ability to create highly motivated and engaged teams, leading to increased productivity, innovation, and success in the workplace.

In conclusion, recognizing and cultivating personal power, specifically referent and expert power, is essential for effective leadership. Leaders who possess these types of personal power can inspire their team members, build trust, and guide them toward achieving shared goals. By balancing personal power with positional power, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment, fostering high-performance teams and driving organizational success.

The impact of personal power on team performance

Harnessing Personal Power for Team Success

Personal power, derived from referent and expert power, is a potent force that can transform team dynamics and drive success. Leaders who understand the importance of personal power and harness it effectively have the ability to inspire their team members, foster collaboration, and achieve outstanding results. Let’s explore how leaders can harness their personal power for team success.

Building Trust and Inspiring Others

Leaders with personal power, particularly referent power, have the ability to build trust and inspire their team members. Trust is the foundation of strong teamwork, and leaders who are admired, respected, and likable can create an atmosphere of trust among their team.

To harness personal power and build trust, leaders must be authentic, transparent, and emotionally intelligent. They listen actively to their team members, acknowledge their contributions, and genuinely care about their well-being. By demonstrating empathy and understanding, leaders with personal power establish a strong rapport with their team members, making them feel valued and motivated to perform at their best.

Furthermore, leaders who embody positive values and behaviors and act as role models can inspire their team members. Through their enthusiasm, passion, and commitment, they inspire others to embrace the team’s vision and goals, fostering a sense of purpose among team members.

Leveraging Expertise and Encouraging Growth

Expert power, another facet of personal power, allows leaders to leverage their knowledge and expertise to guide their teams toward success. Leaders who possess expert power have specialized skills and experience that provide valuable guidance to their team members.

To harness expert power effectively, leaders should actively share their knowledge with their team members. They provide mentorship, offer feedback, and create opportunities for learning and development. By empowering team members with new skills and knowledge, leaders enhance their capabilities and contribute to their professional growth.

Furthermore, leaders with expert power encourage curiosity and a culture of continuous learning within their teams. They foster an environment where team members feel safe to experiment, share ideas, and challenge the status quo. By valuing intellectual curiosity and encouraging innovation, leaders with expert power drive creativity and facilitate problem-solving within their teams.

Cultivating Collaboration and Team Alignment

Harnessing personal power involves cultivating collaboration and aligning the team towards a common goal. Leaders with personal power understand the value of diverse perspectives and create an inclusive environment where every team member feels heard and valued.

To cultivate collaboration, leaders must emphasize the importance of teamwork and establish open lines of communication. They promote a culture of respect and inclusivity, encouraging team members to share their ideas and opinions freely. By actively seeking input from team members and involving them in decision-making processes, leaders with personal power empower their teams and foster a sense of ownership and commitment.

Additionally, leaders with personal power facilitate team alignment by ensuring clarity of purpose and goals. They articulate a compelling vision and translate it into clear objectives that resonate with every team member. Through effective communication, these leaders provide guidance, direction, and support, ensuring that the team remains focused and united in its pursuit of success.

In conclusion, leaders who harness their personal power have the ability to inspire, empower, and guide their teams toward remarkable achievements. By building trust, leveraging expertise, encouraging growth, cultivating collaboration, and fostering team alignment, these leaders create a work environment that fosters high performance and drives team success.

Leadership is not solely about formal authority, but the ability to tap into personal power to influence and motivate others positively. By embracing personal power and utilizing it effectively, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams and achieve remarkable success.

Case Studies: Real-World Examples of Personal Power in Team Performance

Personal power is a potent force that can positively impact team performance and drive success. By leveraging their personal power, leaders can inspire trust, build collaboration, and motivate team members toward achieving shared goals. Let’s explore some real-world examples of personal power in team performance.

Apple under Steve Jobs

One of the most notable examples of personal power in team performance is Steve Jobs’ leadership of Apple. Jobs was known for his strong vision and his ability to inspire, motivate, and lead his team towards achieving ambitious goals.

Jobs leveraged his personal power to establish a culture of innovation and creativity within his team. He valued diversity and encouraged team members to bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. Jobs was an expert in design and technology and had an unwavering commitment to quality, which inspired his team members to strive for excellence.

The result of Jobs’ leadership was a company that produced groundbreaking products such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Apple’s success was a testament to Jobs’ ability to harness his personal power to inspire and lead his team to remarkable achievements.

Toyota Production System

Another example of personal power in team performance can be seen in the Toyota Production System. The system was developed by Taiichi Ohno, who used his personal power to implement a culture of continuous improvement at Toyota.

Ohno focused on empowering his team members to identify and eliminate waste in the production process. He leveraged his expert power to teach his team members the principles of lean manufacturing and instilled a culture of problem-solving and collaboration within the organization.

The result of Ohno’s leadership was a highly efficient and effective production system that has been emulated by companies worldwide. The Toyota Production System is a testament to the power of personal power in driving team performance and achieving remarkable results.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, is another example of a leader who harnessed personal power to drive team performance. Mandela’s leadership played a significant role in the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Mandela utilized his personal power to create a shared vision of a future in South Africa, one that was free from racial inequality. He was an inspirational leader who motivated his team members through his unwavering commitment to social justice and democracy.

Mandela also demonstrated authentic leadership by being honest, humble, and forgiving. He was able to build trust among team members and inspire collaboration, even among those who had been former enemies. Through his personal power, Mandela brought people together and achieved a goal that many deemed impossible.


Personal power is not just about formal authority or influence derived from position. Instead, it is about the ability to inspire and lead through authentic and empowering methods. By valuing and cultivating personal power, leaders can unleash the full potential of their teams and achieve outstanding success.