What are your reflective thoughts about sources of power used by leaders? How and why do they make sense to you? 

Use for reference:


According to French and Raven (1959), there are at least five bases or sources of power that leaders can use.

  • Legitimate–This power is drawn from the position or rank that the leader holds in the hierarchy of the organization. If the organization is not a bureaucratic one, it is not a valid nor reliable source of power. Should merit or performance prevail over position in the workplace?
  • Reward–This power is derived from the leader’s ability to offer positive reinforcement or sanctions for compliance or non-compliance.  Many followers may regard this kind of control as unauthentic and may not be easily persuaded by just the fear of reward or punishment. Napoleon used to say “innovate or I will kill you.” Is this is really the way to motivate people in an enduring way?
  • Expert–This is based on the leaders’ level of knowledge, skills, or experience. There is also the concept of “you are an expert if you call yourself one.” So, expert power may be quite temporary and situational.
  • Referent–This is based on likability, trust, and identification the followers have for their leaders to do the right things for them. This is good for practicing the concept of “first among equals.” The way by which referent power is achieved can be elusive but can serve an important conduit to organizational success.
  • Coercive–This comes from the ability (perceived or real) to punish someone for noncompliance by physical or psychological control (e.g. how dictators can control their citizens by brute force or physical violence). This is not a source of power that democratic or moral leaders and followers alike would embrace.

An understanding of these five forms of power is necessary before we can proceed with our discussion on organizational theory. You can ignore the 6th one (informational) because it does not stand on its own.


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