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We gain referent power because people like us, because they want to be like us in some way, because they respect us.  There are many sources of referent power.  Perhaps we are charismatic and inspiring.  Perhaps we are calm in a crisis, can defuse a conflict with humor and directness, are fair and reasonable, take the time to listen before we speak, or are willing to take responsibility for our actions.  Referent power comes from who we are, day after day, and it’s essential to our success.  The challenge is that we may need to develop a deeper self-awareness in order to understand more completely how we can establish our referent power position.

Personal growth can be a daunting prospect, but the rewards are infinite.  Sometimes we have to accept hard truths about ourselves in order to find new ways to communicate and interact.  But as we become more comfortable in our own skin, we have more options open to us when dealing with the difficult situations and people in our daily lives.  Deep in the core of who we are, we develop new strength and confidence, and we increasingly learn to tell the truth in a way that energizes our teams and supports the entire enterprise.

As for my personal tale of woe, I eventually realized that the struggles I had experienced back in the day were partly my own doing.  I was challenging legitimate power as if I, too, had legitimate power.  In my tiny mind, I did: I was right and management was wrong.  Maybe I was right.  But being right is never enough all by itself.   It needs the support that comes from a solid base of referent power.  I could have used my sense of humor or my ability to listen to and understand their point of view.  I could have met with them one on one, out of the glare of publicity, to work a compromise.  Instead, I went mano a mano, challenged their authority, and triggered their defense mechanisms.   I might have had the metrics in my favor, but I also needed a robust set of soft skills to increase our chances of success. It was an invaluable lesson in how to do it right the next time.