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Stages of Power - The Motive Center
September 17th, 2005
11:23 pm


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Stages of Power
I have a hard time explaining the "Power motive" to people as a good thing. That's why I've been referring to it as the "Influence Motive;" in English, "Power" tends to be synonymous with tyranny.

But all the motives come from deep in the mammal brain, way below the level of complex manipulation. I don't see many Machiavellian animals (I know what you're going to say, cat fans. No! It's not the same!). Power or Influence motive is no worse (or better) than any other.

In fact, the worst tyrants in the workplace, as I think I have mentioned, are often Achievement motivated, because they are so focused on goals and not on people. Influence motivated people can get satisfaction out of delegation, but Achievement motivated people get frustrated by letting go of the task.

Of course, there are also evil manipulators among us; Achievement motivated people, by contrast, are more clueless than conscious of their impact. For those who have been reading this blog long enough (or my book), you know I found that published writers are primarily driven by socialized Influence motive: the strongly inhibited and channeled desire to influence. But where does it come from? What differentiates a Hitler from a Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King? How do you become a Mother Theresa, anyhow?

A researcher by the name of Abigail Stewart, currently at the University of Michigan, came up with what she originally called Stages of Maturity and now calls Emotional Stance, which is more accurate but less evocative.

Even more interesting, when you cross-connect Emotional Stance with Influence motive, you get Stages of Power manifestation, from least to most mature. And this explains a heckuva lot.

It is best depicted as a 2x2 graph, which I have a hard time remembering how to upload, so instead I'll just describe it. (This is clearly a multiple-post anyhow.) I might vary from the "official" language a bit for clarity.

Stage I: Receptive. Receptive Power can be summarized like this: "I feel powerful when associated with powerful others." You are the target of power; the source is outside yourself. Worshipful followers could be Stage I--they only reflect the light of their leader. I think of Hollywood entourages as being in Stage I Power.

Stage II: Autonomous. "I feel powerful when I control myself." You are the source and the target--this is about self-management. To quote "Discipline" by Joe Jackson:

Discipline can stop my hunger
Discipline can quench my thirst
Discipline can make me stronger
If it doesn’t kill me first

Stage III: Assertive. "I feel powerful when I have an impact on others." There are two categories of this: personalized or selfish power (win-lose thinking; if I can push you around, you are weak and I am strong), and socialized power (if I can make you stronger, I feel stronger too).

IIIa (personalized) is Hitler, right? The "strong man" theory of history is all about IIIa. IIIb is the benevolent leader, which is how Hitler wanted to be perceived.

Stage IV: Mutual: "Power shared is power multiplied--I am only as strong as my team." This is channeling power--empowerment. "Make me a channel of your peace," in the Franciscan prayer. But I also heard a CEO say "I'm nobody special--I just have a great team, and I stay out of their way." Further probing revealed that he did an awful lot to enable people to get better and be great, but he saw this strength as coming from them, not from him.

The way I wrote about writers was Stage IIIb, with a LOT of socialization. I'm honestly not sure whether Stage IV would be good for writers or bad!

More later...

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(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 17th, 2005 08:36 pm (UTC)

Stages of Power

I'm interested to see where you take this! The research sounds fascinating, especially with the inclusion of emotional stance.
[User Picture]
Date:September 17th, 2005 08:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Stages of Power

It's some of the coolest stuff in motivation, as far as I am concerned, especially when you start looking at real-life leaders!
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