According to Harvard Business Review, one’s instincts where power is concerned – both giving and receiving it – stem from conditioning in one’s life since childhood, particularly within the family unit. In researching power styles, author Maggie Craddock observed that “the building blocks of anyone’s signature power style are rooted in the ways they have been conditioned to respond emotionally and behaviorally to the first authority figures they encountered in life, namely, their caregivers.”
In other words, those whose caregivers asked for the child’s opinion in making family decisions are likely to be adults who appreciate when colleagues take time to connect and build a trust-based relationship. Conversely, those raised by authoritarian caregivers usually build their power relationships based in fear, which can lead to disliking consensus building and preferring independent leadership.
Most people’s power styles are a blend of the following four profiles, according to Craddock. Where do you fit into the mix? The Pleaser – These are the folks who, lacking the attention they craved early in life, are hardwired to care for others. They hunger for validation and connect with others at a personal level as a means of gaining power.
- The Charmer – As a child, these individuals often had to care for a parent’s emotional needs. Consequently, these individuals have little respect for formal authority and may resort to manipulating others to get their needs met. Charmers have an intense focus that both intimidates and seduces others into compliance.
- The Commander – Sports, religion, military, or any larger system that reinforces discipline or a strict code of conduct has often featured strongly in the family of a Commander. Accustomed to that active scope of thinking, Commanders tend to foster a sense of urgency as they focus on results.
- The Inspirer – Self-expression is more important than conformity in the families of Inspirers. These innovative thinkers operate with a consistent commitment to the greater good, an example set by parents who made sacrifices to achieve excellence.
Remember, no power style is inherently good or bad – each has its share of strengths and challenges. Recognizing how you react to power will help you to react accordingly, strengthening the advantages while minimizing the drawbacks.