Relational power and influence strategies : A step further in understanding power dynamics

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-73
Journal / PublicationChinese Management Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the existence of relational power which is derived from an indigenous Chinese construct - guanxi. The authors also test the hypotheses of relational power with two well established power sources (position and personal power) and their relationships with influence strategies (persuasive, assertive and relationship-based). Design/methodology/approach: The authors employed a mixed method approach. The survey study included 438 Chinese respondents whereas the follow-up interview study included 17 managers from different industries, collected across main cities in China. Findings: The analysis of the data from survey responses provides support for the authors' argument regarding the existence of relational power. Survey results showed that all three power sources predicted leaders' choices of influence strategies. The follow-up qualitative findings from additional interviews with managers also shed interesting insights into the dynamics of different power sources. Research limitations/implications: The use of a convenience sample may limit the generalizability of the findings. Notwithstanding, the study contributes to the power literature by adding a new dimension to the existing power typology, thus helping us better understand how different power sources affect leaders' choices of influence strategies. Practical implications: The study offers new insights to both practitioners and academicians, which is of growing importance because knowledge on power sources and understanding how it operates should help managers consciously cultivate desirable types of power. This study also shows the dynamics of guanxi, thus helping the Westerners better understand work relationships in China and understand why guanxi/relational power is effective here. Originality/value: The paper integrates the power-dependency theory and an indigenous Chinese construct - guanxi and empirically examines how the authors' proposed power source - relational power - affects leaders' choices of influence strategies. The paper argues that by adding this new power source to the power typology which has dominated the power literature for half a century can fully capture the sources of power embedded in an organizational setting, and generate practical implications on leader-member interactions. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Guanxi, Influence strategies, Management power, Power sources, Power-dependence theory, Relational power