Leadership – Five Types of Power Used by Leaders

The Five Types of Power Used by Leaders

Leaders in organizations use managerial CN505 power station to influence the attitudes, behaviors, and values of employees that affect the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. The purpose of the influence is to either encourage desired behaviors or discourage undesirable behaviors.

It is through wise and appropriate use of power, that managers are able to extract the intrinsic value of their human resources and bring about the right adjustments that will work for the benefit of organizational success. Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy define power as, “the capacity to cause change” (Hughes, et al., 2012, p.119). To be successful, leaders must understand the types of power, as well as how and when to use them appropriately.

Five Common Types of Power

  1. Expert power is defined as a source of power that is earned as a result of possessing a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular area (Hughes, et al.). It is power that is earned as opposed to being randomly given by selection. For this reason, it can be possessed and exercised by either leader or follower, and it can also be affected by situation since one can be an expert in one situation and not in another. Expert power can be the result of education, tenure, experience, or even an intrinsic gift. People typically listen attentively to the person they know to have the expertise.
  2. Referent power is power that is derived from the strength of interpersonal relationships (Hughes, et al., 2012, pp. 126-127). Like expert power, it too is earned, and received in exchange for meeting certain interpersonal needs. It is typically more influential because it is relational, as opposed to expert power which concerns one area of expertise. Its relational nature also makes it vulnerable to loss, whereas expert power is not. Authority figures can demand a subordinate to do something, but they cannot demand the high degree of commitment that is typically associated with referent power. It is most powerful when used in conjunction with legitimate power.
  3. Legitimate power is formal authoritative power associated with one’s position or title within an organizational setting (Hughes, et al., 2012, p.128). Subordinates comply with legitimate power out of obligation. They are fully aware they are required to obey. They understand that their superiors have the authority to demand certain responses from them. Unlike referent power, where people commit and cooperate because of their admiration for the leader or manager, like or dislike is not a part of the legitimate power equation. When you accept a position in an organization, you accept the legitimate power the organization has conferred to that position. It can be used to encourage desired behavior or to discourage undesired behavior. It is the most valuable type of power to use in times of crises when fast and immediate action is required. In today’s world of employee rights and labor unions, followers also have legitimate power that is expressed through human resource manuals, laws, and federal regulations.
  4. Reward power is an effective and popular method of influencing people through the control of desired resources (Hughes, et al., 2012, pp129-130). Leaders reward subordinates with praise, bonuses, promotions for doing well. Followers reward leaders with admiration, loyalty, and commitment to show appreciation. Organizational situations determine the type of reward to be given and when.
  5. The fifth source of power is coercive power, which is the use of negative sanctions, punishments, or loss to influence abstinence from undesirable behaviors or attitudes (Hughes, et al., 2012, pp. 130-133). It always encompasses an element of fear or the fear of loss, whether formal or informal. Formal coercive power would be a disciplinary write-up that goes in an employee’s file, or the loss of a privilege. Informal coercive power would be an off-the-record warning.

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