As I take a break from the week’s course load, I tuned into my show of the moment, The Handmaid’s Tale. I realize this is the perfect example of power and influence in leadership.
For those that are not familiar; The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a dystopian America where an extremist group has overthrown the American Government and taken fertile women as hostages to repopulate the earth. This series exemplifies the gross misuse of power and its influence on behavior.
The Commanders of this new society rely solely on their absolute power to maintain control over their followers. Their tactics are inhumane and excessive. From the lesson on power and influence we learned that there are many different sources of power, and this show does well to illustrate these different sources of power. The Commanders are all easily identified by their militant uniforms. In addition, the indentured servants are identified as lower classes with their simple, mousy and timid attire. The Handmaids are dressed in bright red, to easily identify them as subordinates.
Of the five ways to influence identified in Lesson 7, Commanders rely on their legitimate power simply due to their rank in the organization. They have authority because it was given to them from a hierarchical sense. There are times when you may catch a glimpse of reward power in use, like in rewarding a Handmaid’s behavior with allowing them to eat from a buffet made strictly for the leaders. However, like lesson 7 illustrates, these rewards are often not seen as rewards by the recipient.
There is an overwhelming amount of coercive power at play in this series. Lesson 7 defines coercive power as “a function of the leader and situation. It is the opposite of reward power. It is the ability to control others through the fear of punishment or the loss of valued outcomes.” (PSU WC L7 p. 5) The women trapped in this world perform and behave because they fear the repercussions for not complying. Even the wives of the commanders live in fear of their husband’s authority.
Some of the influence tactics employed by the commanders include coalition tactics, pressure tactics, and legitimizing tactics. The leaders of this new world are forced to use these tactics to minimize resistance and maximize compliance. The fact that these indentured women are further broken into caste systems (the wives, Martha’s (or housekeepers) and handmaids (women forced to have children) makes it easier for leaders to employ coalition tactics. These women are made not to trust each other, so there is a herd mentality to comply. These women enforce the leadership rules and indirectly influence others to comply. In addition, it could be said that the pressure tactics are the main source of influence. Commanders rely on “threats or persistent reminders used to influence targets” (PSU WC L7 p.5) as a way to maintain order and compliance. While these threats are quite drastic, including being sent away to labor camps and death, they are great examples of pressure tactics nonetheless.
Canvas learning management system. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1985970/modules/items/26589518