Getting to Yes, And

Power for All


Julie Battilana

Subscribe on

Kelly has a fascinating conversation with Harvard professor Julie Battilana about her new book which examines the science behind power and how its not something anyone can solely possess.

You note in the book that power is always relational and not necessarily static.

“Absolutely. So, in fact, you're right to highlight that power is always relational and, if you want to understand it once and for all, you just have to understand what we call the fundamentals of power. So what are these fundamentals of power? I have power over you Kelly, if I control access to resources that you value and that you need. But you also have power over me if you control access to resources that I value, that I need and want.”

We often assume power is related to the position - if you’re the CEO, we might assume you have power - but that’s not always the case, right?

“This is so true and and you're right to say that this is a shortcut: that we have a tendency today we're sort of thinking ‘Okay, let me, let me see who's powerful here. I can see the organizational charts.’ In fact, that is such a common mistake when we work with people. Power and authority are not the same. Power is the ability to influence other people's behavior and authority is the right to give orders and commands.”

You cite a French study done in a factory that identified who really had the power in that place of work and the results were surprising.

“When any of these people like the top managers, the middle managers came to the floor and asked the workers to do something, the workers didn't seem to care that much. But when maintenance workers in charge of fixing the machines came and asked the workers to do something the workers responded. Now those maintenance workers were as low as the workers in the organizational hierarchy, so if you had moved up your organizational chart you would have said well, these maintenance workers certainly do not have much power.  But they ended up being the most powerful people in the organization. Why? So again it's about the fundamentals of power, because they controlled access to a resource everyone needed: working machines.”.

Related Episodes