Referent Power Essay

Power comes in many different forms, and leaders need to learn how to handle each type.

"Power tends to get to people's heads," psychologist Nicole Lipkin tells Business Insider. "We're not really trained to handle power well."

Lipkin discusses the different types of power in her new book, "What Keeps Leaders Up At Night." Her analysis uses the five types of power introduced by psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, along with two types that were introduced later.

Legitimate Power is where a person in a higher position has control over people in a lower position in an organization.

"If you have this power, it's essential that you understand that this power was given to you (and can be taken away), so don't abuse it." Lipkin says. "If Diane rises to the position of CEO and her employees believe she deserves this position, they will respond favorably when she exercises her legitimate power. On the other hand, if Diane rises to the position of CEO, but people don't believe that she deserves this power, it will be a bad move for the company as a whole."

Coercive Power is where a person leads threats and force. It is unlikely to win respect and loyalty from employees for long.

"There is not a time of day when you should use it," Lipkin tells us. "Ultimately, you can't build credibility with coercive influence — you can think of it like bullying in the workplace."

Expert Power is the perception that one possesses superior skills or knowledge.

"If Diane holds an MBA and a PhD in statistical analysis, her colleagues and reports are more inclined to accede to her expertise," Lipkin says.

In order to keep their status and influence, however, experts need to continue learning and improving.

Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn't necessarily influence or build credibility.

For example, a project manager may have all the information for a specific project, and that will give her "informational power." But it's hard for a person to keep this power for long, and eventually this information will be released. This should not be a long-term strategy.

Reward Power is where a person motivates others by offering raises, promotions, and awards.

"When you start talking financial livelihood, power takes on a whole new meaning," Lipkin says. For example, "both Diane and Bob hold a certain amount of reward power if they administer performance reviews that determine raises and bonuses for their people."

Connection Power is where a person attains influence by gaining favor or simply acquaintance with a powerful person. This power is all about networking.

"If I have a connection with someone that you want to get to, that's going to give me power. That's politics in a way," Lipkin says. "People employing this power build important coalitions with others ... Diane's natural ability to forge such connections with individuals and assemble them into coalitions gives her strong connection power."

Referent Power is the ability to convey a sense of personal acceptance or approval. It is held by people with charisma, integrity, and other positive qualities. It is the most valuable type of power.

"People with high referent power can highly influence anyone who admires and respects them," Lipkin says.


Referent Power in Leadership

2276 WordsOct 1st, 200810 Pages

Referent Power

I. Topic of Inquiry
It is important for managers to understand the sources of power and influence as they must rely upon the cooperation of subordinates in order to be successful. Strong managers rely upon more than just authority they also use leadership skills and power to obtain the most productivity from their staff. According to French and Raven (1959) there are five sources of power. Referent power seems to be the most influential and the least affected by change. To quote Paul Argenti,
“Coercive power relies on the fact that people fear you, and reward power is only effective so long as people value the rewards you have to offer. Legitimate power relies on your rank in the company hierarchy, and recent events…show more content…

3.) Nurturing. Another component of developing referent leadership is nurturing. According to Thompson (1996) a referent leader takes an interest in the feelings of other people and exhibits concern for them. They know the “aspirations, fears, capabilities, and attitudes” (Henderson & Moskos, 1985, p. 112) of others and they help people feel capable and good about themselves (DuBrin, 1995). These traits help to create friendship and over a longer period of time loyalty.
4.) Being a good role model / Being trustworthy. In order to have people drawn to you it is important that they respect you. Being a good role model, being truthful and being trustworthy will reinforce that respect.
How is it used?
Referent power can be used to influence opinion because it can create conscious or unconscious acceptance of the agent’s opinion with little or no question. It can also be used to influence behaviors. As stated by Locke (2003) “When identification is strong, imitation [of the agent’s behavior] is likely to occur even without any conscious effort” (p. 247) to influence. And the target person may not be consciously aware that they are emulating the agent. The stronger the identification or admiration the more powerful influence can be. This was expressed well by Locke (2003) “People are usually willing to do special favors for a friend, and they are more likely

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