One can define leadership as influencing the activities of others toward accomplishing a goal. And we can define power as a leader’s potential to influence the activities of others toward accomplishing a goal. Without a source of power there can be no leadership.
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One can define two power bases: position and personal. Position power is the power given to the leader by the organization. It’s the power granted to the leader based on the job title.
Personal power is power other people give to the leader. That includes the leader’s subordinates, peers and bosses. Personal power is an indication of the level of commitment others have to the leader. Personal power is linked to one’s personality, competence and integrity. Table 1 outlines the seven key types of power.
|Source||Type||Influence on others|
|Coercive power||Position||The ability to impose sanctions or punishment to gain compliance|
|Reward power||Position||The ability to provide rewards or recognition to gain compliance|
|Legitimate power||Position||The right to influence the activities of others based on job title or position|
|Expert power||Personal||Respect gained based on skills, expertise or experience|
|Referent power||Personal||Positive personal traits or integrity|
|Information power||Position and personal||Possession of or access to, valuable information|
|Connection power||Position and personal||Access to others who can provide rewards or sanctions|
Table 1. The table shows the seven major sources of a leader’s power.
A leader should consider these sources of power and be able to incorporate them appropriately. A leader should consider the best sources of power to be employed to achieve success and effectiveness.
So, now you should be asking yourself: “Is there one best and preferred source of power?” The answer is yes, if you’re only concerned with immediate success. For instance, imagine a fire breaks out and you need to ensure a process for volatile hydrocarbons is shut down safely. In this case, position power is the best choice. In most other situations you need to move among the sources of power. Table 2 shows examples of actions that might enhance various sources of power.