Saturday, December 18, 2010

Leadership and Power

So, this past week, I have been thinking about the relationship between leadership and power. What is it that accords legitimacy to leadership? The answer seems pretty straightforward right? Its not just about power...Leadership needs to earn the trust of the constituents and stakeholders - in order for its power to be seen as legitimate. I wanted to see what the literature had to say about this topic and so I got to reading this book on Leadership by Peter Northouse. Here's what the book says on the relationship between leadership and power. 

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Power is the capacity or potential to influence. People have power when they have the ability to affect others’ beliefs, attitudes, and courses of action.

French and Raven (1959) have written about Five Bases of Power that different types of leaders depend on. According to them, the five bases of power are: 
  • Referent power – This is based on followers’ identification and liking for the leader. A professor who is adored by students. (personal)
  • Expert power – This is based on followers’ perceptions of the leader’s competence. A tour guide who is knowledgeable about a foreign country. (personal)
  • Legitimate power – This is associated with having status or formal job authority. A judge who administers sentences in the courtroom (position)
  • Reward power – This is derived from the capacity to provide rewards to others. A supervisor who gives rewards to employees to work hard is using reward power. (position)
  • Coercive power – This is derived from the capacity to penalize or punish others. A coach who sits players on the bench for being late to practice is using coercive power. (position)
For more on this topic read: French, J. R. P., Raven, B. The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright and A. Zander. Group dynamics. New York: Harper & Row, 1959.

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