Researching an earlier book, The Web of Inclusion, Sally spent half a day with Ted Jenkins, the fourth person hired at Intel, one of the tech giants that has made Silicon Valley a global engine of innovation. Ted had watched his company evolve from its earliest beginnings. He’d seen brilliant engineers change the world, and he’d seen brilliant engineers crash and burn.
In Ted’s view, those who thrived understood that there are four kinds of power in organizations.
The first kind of power is the power of expertise, which we’ve been discussing. Knowledge companies like Intel (or Ashley’s and Ana’s employers) are entirely reliant on human talent to create, refine, prototype, manufacture, market, sell, and distribute products whose value lies in the specialized knowledge vested in their processes and design. Because expertise is required for success, demonstrating expertise can become a competitive sport in such companies. But for the reasons Ana discovered, cultivating expertise at the expense of other kinds of power will not position you as a leader. or the power of whom you know. Connections are usually built as you move around in the company, hold different jobs, find allies, and stay in touch. Getting to know people in your industry or sector as well as key clients and movers in your community is also important. Connections serve as a kind of currency you can use to get resources moving and assure your contributions get noticed. As Ana learned, overvaluing expertise can make you reluctant to invest time in building connections. But your relationships comprise an ever-greater part of your value as you rise.
The third kind of power is the power of personal authority or charisma, which is rooted in the confidence you inspire in others. You rarely start your career with much personal authority; it builds as your reputation develops over time. Expertise and connections can help establish personal authority, but there’s always another element: a strong presence, a distinctive cast of mind, a way of speaking and listening that inspires loyalty and trust, or an unusual degree of gravitas. Personal authority is what sets the most successful leaders apart, whether or not their authority is tied to position.