Magic in the Room #55: Types of Power

Not all power is the same. Some people have power due to their job title or position, while others have it because of expertise, relationships, or trust. In this episode of Magic in the Room, Chris, Luke, and Hannah discuss why the source of your power matters and how to use the power you have for good.

In a book called, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night by Nicole Lipkin, the author outlines seven different types of power. The first is called legitimate power. This is often referred to as positional power, typically based on your position in the hierarchy. In this episode, the hosts explore how in human systems, it comes from the fact that we are hierarchical creatures and built into our nature built into our brains.


If we look back to the first day of middle school, everyone goes into a new situation and tries to figure out the power dynamics. It’s innate, and it’s built into us now. But as adults, some are more attuned to power dynamics than others. Another example is coercive power which is when we try and convince someone to do something that they don’t want to do.


When we’re persuading people, we’re unwittingly using coercive power. Some people are good at it and others not so much. The hosts of Magic in the Room talk about these examples along with all the seven different types of power. They discuss how some power is acquired and shared. Chris, Hannah, and Luke also reveal their personal experiences and takeaways from the conversation.


Hannah discusses the juxtaposition of legitimate power and authority versus referent power. We all know those people that will say, “I have got to do what you say because of your position, and that’s the only reason I’m doing it.” By contrast, others might say, “I want to follow your direction because I trust you. I value that relationship, and I believe in what you’re doing.” Which leader do we want to be?


For Chris, it’s around ramping up intentionality around transforming informational power and advancing his effectiveness as a leader. Luke’s big takeaway from today’s episode is that power exists where hierarchy exists, which is everywhere. Where there are people, there will be some power dynamics at play too.


However, just like everything else in life, the more intentional we get about using the power dynamics for good to fulfil the purpose of the team, organization, or relationship, the more successful we will become as leaders and enrich the lives of the people around us.


Do you ever look across your organization or your team and find yourself thinking, how do we move from legitimate power or authorized power to an environment where we all share and establish direction and advance the purpose of this team or this business? We would love to talk to you about it. You can message Chris, Hannah, and Luke at

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