THE CONCEPT OF POWER I

SUNDAY, JANUARY 10, 2011

THE CONCEPT OF POWER I

BY

ERNEST ONUOHA

You are most welcome to this new year of God’s unlimited blessings in Jesus name! Amen.

Three concepts we shall consider in a serial include: POWER, MONEY AND SEX. Nations, individuals rise and fall on them.

Let us begin our serial with:

POWER: Longman Dictionary of contemporary English says of Power: “the ability or right to control people or events”, we can say illustrating thus: “we all felt that the chairman had too much power”.

Scholars have added their definition of power. Weber (1947) defines power as “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance” Beirstedt (1950) defines it as “ability to employ force”. Hoy and Miskel define it as “the ability to get others to do what you want them to do”. Rogers 1973 defines power as “the potential for influence”.

Power is an essential ingredient in leadership. Those who clamour for leadership invariably are courting power in order to control people or events, exert influence, they could employ force and no resistance is to be allowed. In Africa many political leaders cling to power even when their time is off. I think it is good to quit when ovation is loudest.

Management experts have told us that those in power can have the following types of power at their disposal. Using Ukeje and Okorie (1990) typology, rulers have:

A. REWARD POWER

This is the leader’s capacity to reward followers. To the extent that a leader possesses and controls rewards that are valuable to the subordinates to that extent will his power increase. In this regard two categories of reward are at the disposal of the leader. The category which is sources of personal power includes: praise, recognition and attention. The other includes organizational rewards such as salary increases, promotion, study leave with pay, and other perquisites.

B. COERCIVE POWER

This is the leader’s capacity to coerce or punish followers. This also breaks down into personal and organizational components. Leaders on their own possess coercive power in their capacity to criticize or withhold recognition from followers. They also possess positional or organizational coercive power to the extent that they can administer punishment in the form of demotion, withholding increments, termination, etc.

C. LEGITIMATE POWER

This is the power which a leader possesses by virtue of his occupying a particular position or role in an organization.

D. EXPERT POWER

This is the power possessed by the leader as a result of his knowledge and expertise regarding the task to be performed by the subordinates. Naturally subordinates are more likely to respond positively to the influence of leaders if they view them as competent in the area in question.

E. REFERENT POWER

This is dependent upon the extent to which the subordinates identify with the leader; that is, look up to and wish to emulate him. The more the subordinates admire and want to be like or emulate the leader the more he is able to influence them.

So at any point in time those in authority do have recourse to any of the above sources of power either to reward or deny their subordinates. You may now begin to appreciate why some people play sycophantic roles in order to pick crumbs from rulers tables. I strongly believe that the essence of power is to enable us influence people for societal progression. Which means seeking for power should not be for personal aggrandizement. However, it is very pertinent to observe that power belongs to God. He gives it to those whom He wishes.

God the creator of universe knows that human society requires governance and cohesion. Of his own volition He spoke through Apostle Paul in Romans 13V1-5”…for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves…”

Men do need therefore to surrender to God as our supreme leader. Those who rule must be prepared to be accountable to God. Remember, every exercise of power rightly or wrongly must be accounted for whether in the civil or religious circle sometime, someday.

One may begin to ask himself looking at the civil and religious terrain: are men aware that power belongs to God? Power whether exercised rightly or wrongly should be accounted for. In short, what is man doing with power and how beneficial has it been to the larger society. We will return to it.

To be continued.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha

Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,

Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

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