Power and interest



The power and interest competence element describes how the individual recognises and understands informal personal and group interests and the resulting politics and use of power. This competence element defines how individuals participating in projects should recognise how informal influences (resulting from personal and group ambitions and interests and modified by personal and group relationships) relate with the project context. These informal influences differ from formal interests (as, for instance, formalised in a business justification) that derive from the organisation’s strategy or from standards, regulations, etc. 



The purpose of this competence element is to enable the individual to use power and interest techniques to achieve stakeholder satisfaction and deliver the agreed outcomes within the constraints of time and budget. 



Power is the ability to influence the behaviour of others. A substantial part of influence comes from informal power — that part of power which is not ‘solidified’ into formal roles, structures or processes. This informal aspect of power is often motivated by personal ambitions and interests. Stakeholders usually also have personal ambitions and interests and they will often try to use their influence to suit the processes and/or outcomes of the project to their interests. These actions may help or thwart the project. Understanding and being able to influence and use these informal personal interests and the resulting politics is essential to ensure project success.

Apart from cultural aspects and values, each person has his or her own style and personality. Individual approach will influence the way power is exercised. In the domain of project management, the individual may be called upon to exert sufficient influence in order to realise the successful completion of the project. The individual may also need to recognise and prioritise the interests of key project stakeholders.

Interest is an attraction to a specific topic or desired outcome, for instance a certain desire toward or away from an object, situation, position, outcome or opinion. People often try to realise their interests by exercising their influence. Interest is often pursued through formal and informal relationships, which can result in group influence. Groups may consist of informal groups of colleagues or friends, or formal structures such as departments, councils and boards. In formal groups, care should be taken to distinguish the formal role or power from the informal influence, which may come from other power sources. Examples of informal power include referent or expert power.


Key competence indicators

Assess the personal ambitions and interests of others and the potential impact of these on the project

People have goals and ambitions, for example career goals, or a desire to improve society or improve themselves. They also have interests that are related to these ambitions and influence the interests they have in the project and its success. Part of their ambitions and interests will often be congruent with their present formal position, that is, performing the tasks that they are formally required to do may help realise their ambitions and interests. Then again, their ambitions and interests may go beyond (or even be partly at odds with) the formal interests of their formal position. Being able to identify the ambitions and personal interests of people (stakeholders, team members or colleagues) is often necessary in order to work with them in an efficient and effective way.


  • Acknowledges and assesses the personal ambitions and interests of relevant people or groups
  • Acknowledges and assesses the differences between personal and organisational interests and goals


Assess the informal influence of individuals and groups and its potential impact on the project

Informal influence has to be distinguished from the formal influences as laid down in organisational documents and processes. People may have influence for many reasons and through many different means. Apart from the formally agreed on legitimate power (e.g. of department heads, executives, judges and school teachers) there are many other bases of power, for instance coercive, reward, referent and expert power. Relationships are a strong base of power, too. Influencing decisions through use of personal relationships is a common and often effective way. There is often a marked difference in the ability of people or groups to influence certain kinds of decisions, or decisions taken in a specific knowledge area or part of the organisation (‘reach’ of influence). Every person and group influence has its own reach and it is important to know this reach.


  • Acknowledges and can estimate the influence, power and reach of certain individuals in various settings
  • Is able to discern group affiliations and relationships in relation to the project


Assess the personalities and working styles of others and employ them to the benefit of the project 

Everybody is unique and will act and operate in his or her specific way. Style is also influenced by cultural factors, as discussed in ‘Culture and values’. Different people may have the same ambitions and/or interests, yet may use a different style in using their influence. Other people may display the same behaviour or style, yet differ in ambitions and/or interests. The individual has to acknowledge the differences while working with individuals and groups in an efficient and effective way.


  • Identifies and acknowledges the differences between behavioural style and personality
  • Identifies and acknowledges the differences between cultural aspects and personality