Power failure in management circuits

Harv Bus Rev. Jul-Aug 1979;57(4):65-75.


When one thinks of "power", one often assumes that a person is the source of it and that some mystical charismatic element is at work. Of course, with some people this is undoubtedly so; they derive power from how other people perceive them. In organizations, however--says this author--power is not so much a question of people but of positions. Drawing a distinction between productive and oppressive power, the author maintains that the former is a function of having open channels to supplies, support, and information; the latter is a function of these channels being closed. She then descriges three positions that are classically powerless: first-line supervisors, staff professionals, and, surprisingly, chief executive officers. These positions can be powerless because of difficulties in maintaining open lines of information and support. Seeing powerlessness in these positions as dangerous for organizations, she urges managers to restructure and redesign their organizations in order to eliminate pockets of powerlessness.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel / classification*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Social Dominance*
  • Women