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Photo: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

In the transition from technical role to a management role, one of the key areas for young managers to watch for is the lack of power base.

Jean Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet in MIT Sloan Review suggest 3 areas to plug this deficit:

Legitimacy
Critical resources
Networks

Legitimacy with bosses can send a signal of credibility to others which leads to a cycle of high visibility and influence which boosts your standing. Connects you to influential people and information.

Research on (LMX) Leader Member exchange indicates that bosses mentally divide their members into “in group” vs “out group”.

What can you do?
What you do in the job:
Hard work while important is exaggerated to secure credibility. LMX research suggests that one’s attitude and perceived compatibility with the boss are more powerful determinants of good relationship.

1. Understand the boss’s style and objectives. Boss’s preferences. Can be as simple as the boss’s preferences such as for email vs face to face discussions. Brevity vs depth. Adjust your communication style accordingly. Goals and interests to provide the kind of support to help boss succeed. Deliver on those objectives. May include seeking feedback as appropriate. Find subtle ways to advertise your expertise by publicly volunteering to help colleagues tackle difficult problems.

2. Accumulate credits by helping superiors get things done. Powerful people may see them as valuable allies. Kick start the virtuous cycle of reciprocity by making good faith deposits upfront.

3. Turn yourself into a resource. Gain special expertise.

What sort of expertise ?
Identify problems that nobody else has noticed or that few people are capable of resolving and then work to address them.

Consolidate your strengths. You’ve heard the 80/20 rule. To be so good you can’t be ignored. Don’t just be a generalist.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co once said, “To be a future leader, one should have a skill that everyone looks at and says X is the go-to person for that skill. Unless you’re really knownfor something, you don’t stand out from the pack.

One of the risks involved is that you’ll be locked into the position.

4. Build your own network.
A high quality relationship with a poorly connected boss may do more harm than good. Sometimes you’ve to protect yourself from bad bosses. After all you’ve to identify escape routes for yourself in the event of sudden changes and shake up.
Cultivate useful allies. Look beyond titles and formal roles to discover informal ties and actual dynamics that drive decision making in a group. Real movers and shakers.

How?

Reach out to both internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include government relations, customers and analysts and institutional investors and board members. Asking customers what do you really need ?

Match-making– create forums where ideas and information can be exchanged. Sometimes it could be the organisation’s dinner and dance where you help people connect. Gain a reputation as someone who knows how to connect people.

Many of these roles contain risks, acknowledge the authors. So walk a fine line as you may be seen as using the role for your own gain.

Assess the areas of influence which you lack.