Management - Other

French and Ravens five Forms of Power

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It has been said that managing people would be easy if people would just do what they’re told. This may seem like a ridiculous cliché but in truth, emerging managers need to devote a great deal of their time to learning how to become effective leaders. Managing people is more than just giving orders because people don’t happily comply and perform at their best when their manager is perceived as being unworthy of their respect. Managers are people who have power. They have the power to direct work, oversee subordinates, and impose discipline and rewards but to be a successful manager, one must also be an effective leader and leaders rely on more than just their formal power to build and manage enthusiastic teams.

Social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven introduced what has become known as French and Ravens Five Forms of Power in 1959. Understanding the close link between power and leadership, they identified and divided power in to five distinct forms. They could then show how each form of power affects one’s ability to successfully lead others.

Three of the five forms of power develop from the position or title of the leader. They are inherently related to status, meaning someone without direct or indirect subordinates will not possess them.

Legitimate Power

Legitimate power is given to a person directly and exclusively because of their title. This form of power is limited to situations in which people believe the person has control. For example, a police officer or judge has legitimate power because people recognize that they have the right and ability to make decisions that will uphold the law. In business, a department manager has legitimate power in their respective department. In some cases that power would not transfer to another division of the company. There, they would have no legitimate power. The influence of legitimate power is exclusive to the position regardless the person currently holding it.

Coercive Power and Reward Power

These two forms of power are necessary in effective leadership but can be easily abused by managers who lack the skills necessary to demonstrate the true shadow of a leader or gain a commitment by employees through any other means. People do what they are told because they don’t want to be fired but using threats and punishment as motivation are forms of coercion. While there must be rules of conduct and standards of productivity, the fear of punishment should never be used as the only motivation to perform given to employees. This type of leadership results in a negative work environment rife with dissatisfaction. Rewards can be motivational and the people with the power to provide incentives, promotions, and bonuses tend to acquire reward power. The danger with relying on reward power is that there are almost always limits to the number and amount of rewards that can be provided to employees. Additionally, some behaviors are expected as part of the natural function of the job and are not rewarded with additional perks or incentives. A leader can’t be effective by relying on reward and coercive power alone.

The last two forms of power come from a more personal source. People who hold no position of legitimate leadership may still have influence over their co-workers and even their supervisors if they exhibit the personal traits required to obtain these forms of power.

Referent Power

Referent power is the power to influence others though attraction, charisma, and charm. It is the power given to those that people genuinely respect, admire, and relate to on some emotional level. People are more apt to follow the direction of a leader that they respect, admire, and feel comfortable with. In many cases, a leader can acquire referent power by coming up through the ranks and letting their subordinates know that they have walked a mile in their shoes. Leaders with referent power are role models. People work for them because they like to please them and feel bonded to them in some way. Politicians rely on referent power to get elected. In order to get votes, they need to be likeable and relatable. Referent power alone will not make a good leader but when combined with other forms of power, can lead to great success. Referent power is also a marketable trait for those seeking a promotion to a role in leadership.

Expert Power

Expert power is given to those who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to become a trusted leader. They are the subject matter experts that other gravitate to when they need answers and clarification. Expert power does not rely on a title to exist. A trusted co-worker who has demonstrated high standards of excellence in the execution of their duties may possess expert power. They may find that their co-workers trust their advice and counsel more than they do that of their superiors. When a manager possesses expert power, he becomes invaluable to his team. They find comfort in the knowledge that their supervisor uses good judgment and rational thinking. The politician elected through their referent power will not likely win a reelection bid if they did not earn expert power while in office.  Managers who lack expert power may be equally short lived.  The best thing about expert power is that it can be developed, grown and diversified allowing the manager to further develop as a leader.

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