5 Sources of Power in Organizations
by Paul Merchant, Demand Media
Power refers to the possession of authority and influence over others. Power is a tool that, depending on how it's used, can lead to either positive or negative outcomes in an organization. In 1959, American sociologists John French and Bertram Raven published an article, "The Bases of Power," that's regarded as the basis for classifying power in organizations. They identified five sources of power, namely: coercive, referent, legitimate, expert and reward power.
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Legitimate power is also known as positional power. It's derived from the position a person holds in an organization's hierarchy. Job descriptions, for example, require junior workers to report to managers and give managers the power to assign duties to their juniors. For positional power to be exercised effectively, the person wielding it must be deemed to have earned it legitimately. An example of legitimate power is that held by a company's CEO.
Knowledge is power. Expert power is derived from possessing knowledge or expertise in a particular area. Such people are highly valued by organizations for their problem solving skills. People who have expert power perform critical tasks and are therefore deemed indispensable. The opinions, ideas and decisions of people with expert power are held in high regard by other employees and hence greatly influence their actions. Possession of expert power is normally a stepping stone to other sources of power such as legitimate power. For example, a person who holds expert power can be promoted to senior management, thereby giving him legitimate power.
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Referent power is derived from the interpersonal relationships that a person cultivates with other people in the organization....