Types of Power in Leadership

Types of Power in Leadership

Power is the ability to exercise influence or control over others. Leadership involves authority and it is very important for leaders to understand what type of power they're using. The 5 Types of Power in Leadership are Coercive power, expert power, legitimate power, referent power, and reward power. Authority is the right to command and extract obedience from others. It comes from the organization and it allows the leader to use power.

In the functioning of a leader, the ability to guide the action of others is achieved through his or her authority. Carrying out of these decisions is accomplished because of the power of the leader. You will see the relationship between the authority and power of a leader as we go further to understand various types of power.

1. Legitimate Power:

This power comes to the leader when the organization’s authority is accepted. It comes from the rules of the organization. For e.g. parents, teachers, managers, police, etc. have legitimate power only when their authority is accepted in the positions they hold.

2. Expert Power:

This is the power of knowledge and skill of special kinds that is important in getting the job done. A person’s professional competence or knowledge gives him or her expert power. The credibility increases and he or she can lead other persons to trust the judgments and decisions taken by the leader. A leader may not be an expert in all fields, but one can certainly take the help of experts in particular fields as and when required.

3. Charismatic Power:

This is the power of attraction or devotion, the desire of one person to admire another. A subordinate feels a positive attraction towards a leader by identifying oneself, with the leader, or gets influenced by the leader’s attractive power. This power helps the subordinate to understand and value the leader so much that one understands and acts according to the expectations of the boss or the leader. It helps one to act as one’s own boss, and behave in ways one thinks the boss will want.

4. Reward Power:

This power is the present or potential ability to reward for worthy behavior. The superior or the leader has the power to give tangible rewards such as promotion, office space, time off from work, attractive work assignments, and help to the subordinate. Also, psychological rewards like praise, appreciation, approval, and recognition can be given by the leader or the superior to the subordinate. The subordinate has to believe that the leader has access to higher authorities; therefore, the leader can give rewards. This reward power of the leader can also increase the leader’s charismatic and legitimate power.

5. Coercive Power:

This is the ability to threaten or punish. The leader can give tangible punishment like dismissal, demotion, low rating, less satisfying work assignments, etc. Psychological punishments include criticism, avoidance, disapproval or satirical remarks, etc. on the subordinate. The reward power helps to avoid something undesirable. The self-esteem of the subordinate will increase because of reward power. It also decreases because of punishment or coercive power. Even a subordinate may withdraw or break the rules or become hostile. One may not feel attracted to the charismatic power of the leader and at times may ignore the leader’s legitimate power. Having seen the reasons for differences between the authority and power of the leader, you should know the type of leaders as understood on the basis of their authority and power.

Besides the power aspect one should also account for the following:

Formal Leader:

A formal leader is selected by the organization. For example, a manager is a formal leader by virtue of the authority coming from the organization. He or she influences others to help accomplish the goals of the organization or unit. Such leadership lasts over a long period of time.

Informal Leader:

An informal leader is chosen by the group. Thus, all managers are leaders if their authority is accepted, but not all leaders are managers. Informal leadership is leadership without position and may shift from one person to another. It may last for a brief time. Most people are leaders at one time or the other and they can have an influence on others as defined by the concept of leadership itself.

The ideal leader is the one who can combine formal and informal leadership simultaneously within himself or herself.

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