With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility;
Responsibility to persuade, influence, motivate and inspire people to do their best to accomplish the common goal.
The responsibility falls directly on the shoulder of a leader, either externally, by virtue of his position and title or internally, by their innate quality to encourage and uplift their team members.
True power, however, is the amalgam of both internal and external power, and regardless of the placement of a person in the hierarchical structure of an organization, anyone can exhibit some type of power to influence positive work culture and team-building.
Having said that, every leader’s leadership style is as distinct as the person himself. While some like to lead by example, exhibiting moral values, others take leverage of their wisdom, experience, rewards and many times, fear to build authority.
Whatever way they choose, most leaders portray one of these 8 types of powers in their leadership.
1. Legitimate Power
Legitimate power is the power entrusted to an executive or a manager by the organization on occupying a certain position and title. Simply put, it comes in their job description as a formal power that stays with them as long as they stick to that position.
Since this type of power is handed down to a person, it can as easily be taken away. For this reason, a wise and effective leader does not solely rely on their legitimate power to exert authority but uses it in transition with other powers and his interpersonal skills to establish dynamic leadership.
For a legitimate power to function properly, it is crucial that it is well-received and favoured by the employees. Therefore, the person given legitimate power should be truly deserving of it, otherwise, it’s a counterproductive move by the organization.
2. Referent Power
Referent power is the most influential power because it is not passed down to you, but you prove yourself worthy of leadership and role model by gaining the trust and respect of your collogues.
A leader with referent power has proven himself time and again, especially in challenging situations, by keeping the team uplifted and intact, displaying incredible problem-solving skills and maintaining an aura of calm and positivity. The employees follow suit and put the person on the pedestal of referent power themselves.
People with referent power have tremendous authority by the very nature of their interpersonal skills and rapport building. Most employees aspire to be like them and try to imitate them in any adverse situation.
Needless to say, this kind of power takes time to establish.
3. Expert Power
When you are an expert in your field, having far greater knowledge and experience than anyone else in the organization, people will naturally come to you to seek advice and help in the subject.
With profound expertise and years of experience, people consider you credible, which ultimately gives you expert power. However, this type of power is fleeting. You can exert this power only when you can deliver what others need. When the need changes and is outside your expertise, your expert power can dwindle.
To ensure the power stays with you, the urge to expand your knowledge and learning should not fizzle out.
People do not like taking it from someone who is being snobbish and pompous about his expertise. It’s better to stay grounded and exercise your expert power only when needed.
4. Information Power
Loosely related yet distinct to expert power is information power. This is the kind of power you attain when you know something of value that others are oblivious to.
Information power is very short-lived and lasts only till the information is not shared with the employees. It will eventually be released, putting an end to your information power. Information power has little influence on others, but to ensure it is rightly used, leaders should pass on the correct and detailed information with the intention of meeting their team’s goals.
5. Reward Power
Reward power is the tricky one if one doesn’t know where and how to use it. People who can motivate their employees to perform better to win a raise, promotions or various awards have the reward power.
It works best when the reward being offered is relevant to the employee and can bring a positive difference in his life or career. However, it is crucial to be wary of using the power of reward for something that the employee is supposed to do as a part of his job description, role and duties, in which case it will be futile.
Good leaders should also bear in mind that what works for one may not work for the other. While money is a great motivator, it can not be an option every time. Think of clever rewards like work-from-home, team dinners, free lunch, exclusive tickets, office perks etc., which often work better for team building, eliminating the factor of competition.
6. Charismatic Power
Charismatic leaders have the natural ability to influence and inspire others despite having little to no actual authority and technical expertise. Their unique qualities, outgoing personality and charm are the factors that come to play here. People are naturally drawn to a person’s star quality and sophisticated style and are always ready to listen to what he has to say.
It is largely believed that only a few innately charismatic people can exert this power. This has been proven wrong by many behavioural studies that a set of skills defined as charismatic skills can be learned and adapted over time.
7. Moral Power
Moral leaders live and lead by a philosophy and values they hold dear. They inspire and instil action based on the strength of their character and beliefs. People look up to them owing to the respect with which they view them.
A leader with moral power goes up and beyond to deliver what he promises and, through his ethics and personality traits, encourages others to do the same. It is essential for a leader with moral power to always abide by his philosophy because this is where his credibility and authority stem from.
However, any organization is a fusion of people with different values, ethics, culture and religion; a leader leading with moral power often finds himself in a moral conundrum.
8. Coercive Power
Lastly, coercive power is using the power of fear to elicit desirable action from employees. Coercive power is highly disdainful and does not build trust with the team members, who are always afraid of either getting fired or not being promoted.
While it can bring about temporary compliance, there is a greater chance of employee burnout. Using fear to lead will also ignite toxicity, hate culture and overall unproductivity.
Unless there are severe circumstances, like workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination, when it becomes necessary to exert coercion to protect other employees, leaders should avoid overusing it.
In the end, it is important to realize that when you hold a power position, people rely on you for direction and guidance. Therefore, understanding various forms of power and utilizing them in combination, depending on the need of the hour, is how a true leader is born.