POWER – BASES : Positional & Personal

POWER Sources, Personal / Positional


Source credibility directly impacts the effectiveness of whichever power base is used to persuade others, that is – a communicator’s positive or negative characteristics will affect the receiver’s acceptance or rejection of a message.

: Social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram H. Raven conducted a remarkable study about power in 1959. They divided it into 5 separate & different Power BASES, which explain leadership’s way of thinking, action & decision making. Later research added several other forms.

a. Coercive
– leader based their interactions on fear, the ability to impose their will by threat of sanction.  They’re in a position to punish others for nor doing what’s needed or what they wanted, such criticism for bad performance, threat of firing, lowering a bonus, changing vacation times, demotion, or firing. Its the opposite of REWARD

b. Ecological – The power to control the physical environment & structure in which people work, & making changes accordingly, understanding that these play a significant role in shaping human behavior.  Such power can be wielded with simple techniques such as temperature or lighting adjustments, or with complex architectural designs meant to enhance specific behaviors of employees.

c. Informational  – The power that come from access to information, such as control of data gathering & distribution, & to influence using facts & data. It’s the basis of decision making & leadership, so analytically strong people use it keep power. On the flip side, there are the gatekeepers or information hoarders, who thrive on the negative power & control, which harm specific teams & the org as a whole

d. Legitimate – The epitome of positional power, it comes from the authority of a person’s place in a hierarchy. But it also depends on a group of people willing to defer to seniority,

e. Reward – This stems from the inducements or rewards a leader can offer for doing what they want others to do or what’s needed to be done for the larger benefit. This can be intangible such as verbal praise & encouragement for good performance, or tangible, such as assigning  projects, giving raises or promotions….

a. Avoiding Power – Refuse to act, get involved, or make decisions (eventually someone will get the message). This can only work if the person has enough personal clout to get away with avoiding going along with someone else’s agenda, either of a peer or a corporate entity without endangering their own position. However, it can harm the organization

b. Connection – This comes through networking – being able to use links to other influential people to support ones own, more direct, power. If the manager or leader does not have much of our own power to offer, the connects are not very useful, which become little more than reflected glory.

c. Expertise – people who have achieved some level of mastery of a subject, gained through knowledge & skills developed through study, practice & experience. but needs to be in kept current to maintain this power base. It gives such a person an authority that often commands great respect. Can be Neg or Pos – others will believe this person because of their level of knowledge, BUT may lead to following their advice against Co. policy or project goal

d. Referent – is the influence gained through personal relationships, charisma & likability, & used with or without integrity. Manager or leader can be being respected or admired by the team or stakeholders because of positive past experiences with this person….).
EXP: Persuasive Power, such as the ‘sales pitch’ – someone who can effectively ‘push‘ people toward a specific outcome or decision. (See future Post: : “Power – Influence Strategies“)

e. Resource – Neither Information nor Connection Power satisfactorily account for the power that certain ‘gatekeepers’ have in organizations. These people control access to wider resources: funds, equipment, supplies….. They’re often middle-ranking, junior or administrative colleagues with little legitimate power, nevertheless wield Resource Power by proxy, to meet their need for control in their workplace.


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