Imbalances in power are pervasive and can manifest in nuanced ways, even in simple initial conversations. Have you ever encountered someone who says, “it’s nice to see you,” during your first interaction and then continually uses your name? This individual might be trying to establish a connection, or they could be applying strategies they’ve picked up from management books.
Indeed, some advice on leadership can be beneficial—most individuals do value eye contact and a friendly facial expression. However, such guidance can also be superficial, forced, and ultimately counterproductive—for instance, the frequently advised tactic of raising your voice to appear more authoritative. One of the issues is that management literature and articles often simplify complex dynamics and seldom provide practical advice on the competencies and conduct needed to achieve results, as noted by McKinsey & Company.
These understated maneuvers of power, whether spontaneous or premeditated, can disorient the person on the receiving end, effectively granting the person employing them a tactical advantage. At times, discerning another individual’s motives can be difficult, particularly if you don’t know them well. But in the realm of power imbalances, the impact may take precedence over the intent: If you sense that you’re losing your sense of control or influence, you most likely are.