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Power In Groups: Indicators and Resources

Updated on December 21, 2014

“Power is the ability to influence the attainment of goals sought by yourself or others” (Rothwell, 2013). This is of course a general view of power, but it is what it is. Power comes in all forms and on many levels everyone has power. This power is usually over someone else and many times leads to a misuse of power.

There are three main types of power in groups and they are domination, empowerment and prevention. Domination is a power over someone and will lead to a loss. It is competitive, meaning one will win, while another loses. An example of this would be a politician and a police officer. Prevention is the power in taking power back or refusing to give away your power. This would be a protestor for example, or someone who fights the dominance. Empowerment is made from hard work and a person’s ability to accomplish their own goals. This power also helps other to succeed in their goals. An example of this type of power would be a man like Martin Luther King and power from inspirational speakers. They have power because they make their goals happen and inspire others to do the same.

With each type of power there are indicators to communicate the power to others inside, as well as outside of the group. The week’s reading suggest three major ones; verbal, non-verbal and general.

General indicators of power in a group are those who define power exercise control. Labels is an indicator of power, think how much power one man got from the label of President of the United States. A second indicator would be who the people actually listen to. If the person next to the label is making all the decisions, there is the real power. The third general indicator of power is to people that oppose big changes. Think of those on top, too many changes are made, they may not be on top anymore. A good example would be big businesses that spend millions to lobby politicians to ensure that the status quo, stays that way.

Verbal indicators are the way a person speaks. There are several speech patterns that will fall into this category such as; hedges, hesitations, excessive politeness, as well as disclaimers. While powerless people will be more self-deprecating, powerful people will show power in their very speech. In the workplace, if a person pushes their power verbally, others will react to it accordingly.

While some may say more than half of our communication is non-verbal, so true for the power indicators. One of these indicators of power is space. Especially in this society, the person with the biggest office is usually the one with the most power. The posture of a person can also be an indicator of power. Being more relaxed and taking up more space, can be a sign of power.

Power also comes from something. There are five resources of power and they are expertise, information, punishments and rewards, legitimate authority and personal qualities. Information is a powerful resource, as long as the information is sought after and limited. When information is restricted or scarce, it automatically becomes worth more in most people’s eyes. If a person can produce this type of information, they will ensure a small amount of power. Expertise is a lot like information, however the person that can understand and make the information useful has their own type of power.


Rothwell, J. D. (2013). In Mixed Company: communicating in Small Groups and Teams, Eighth edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning


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