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When most people think of “power” they think immediately of the misuse of power.
How many police supervisors and those at the management level use their power solely
to benefit themselves? One of the best definitions I have heard for power is: the potential
to influence the activities of an individual or group toward accomplishing a mission, task
or goal. Power should be utilized by police leaders as a positive force.

Generally speaking, power comes in two types and from seven sources. The discussion
of power can be a short statement (don’t abuse it) or it can be an eight-hour seminar.
Hopefully, although short, the following information relative to power will peak your

The two types of power are positional power and personal power. Position power comes
from the agency and will be related to your rank or position (officer in charge,
commanding officer, etc.). Personal power is given to a leader based on the willingness
of others to be influenced. Obviously, personal power is much tougher to obtain and easy
to loose.

All of the sources of power can be used in a positive manner. The only source with some
negativity to it is coercive power. This is the power used when all the positive attempts
fail and then is used to gain positive results. Other sources of power include:
information (the leader’s knowledge and ability to gather information); reward (such as
extra time off, special assignments); legitimate (rank is to take care of people and not to
gather privileges); referent (based on personal traits of the leader and respect for
him/her); connection (the people you know) and expert (the expertise you have developed
in a particular area).

Power can be studied as an independent topic or in conjunction with Situational
Leadership. Either way, it should reviewed, analyzed and utilized by police leaders.
Take care of your people and use your power in a positive manner.

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