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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №3 - 2010

Автор: Богун А.Ю.

Preferences for leadership, strategic objectives, and communication tactics all contribute to how leaders influence followers. Yet behaviors alone do not adequately explain how one individual is recognized as a leader whereas another is not. We have all seen individuals who are recognized as leaders exhibit almost identical behaviors to those who never achieve leadership recognition. Frequently the difference in who is a leader and who is not is a subtle matter of credibility, a credibility that enables one person to be more influential than another. This credibility is commonly referred to as power or the power bases of the leader. The concept of power can best be understood as an interactive process. Power does not exist in a vacuum but rather as people interact with one another. From this perspective power can be understood as the influence as individual has over another as a result of dependency on the powerful person. To understand this interaction it is helpful to think about some of the power bases available to leaders.

Many times the terms power and influence are used interchangeably; however, Callahan E, Robert distinguishes their meaning. Influence is the process of affecting the thoughts, feelings or behaviors of others. Influence as a process only exists during the conduct of interpersonal relations. Power is the capacity to influence others to get things done. Therefore, influence is the application of power. By virtue of position, managers hold power. Power may be used or withheld, depending on the situation or the person who holds the power. For example, the office of President of the United States has power, the ability to influence. But the application may be different depending on who is occupying the office and the specific situation being considered by the office-holder. As with communication, power can be a two-way process. The power-holder can be influenced by the recipient’s performance. For example, leaders show more consideration to subordinates who perform at a higher level. This often leads to higher satisfaction among the subordinates. The following figure shows the interaction of basic concepts that are typical of power and its usage.

French and Raven have identified six fundamental sources of power: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, connection power and expert power. These sources of power are not equally available to everyone in the organization, and the sources of power for managers and staff personnel are different.

1. Reward power is based on the leader’s control and distribution of tangible and intangible reward resources. A leader can influence with the promise of rewards only as long as those rewards are within the leader’s control and perceived by followers as rewarding. Many people attempt to influence with rewards that others do not find important or influential. Many supervisors believe, for example, that money is the primary reward for good performance, although considerable research suggests that communication contact with supervisors is one of the most sought-after of all subordinate rewards. Communication interaction is more often controlled by supervisors than money or other tangible benefits. Managers usually hold power in organizations by virtue of their ability to reward. This power is one aspect of motivation. The strength of the power differs upon the amount of reward that the manager controls and the strength of the subordinate’s desire for the reward. Examples of reward power include pay increases, bonuses, and promotions.

2. Coercive power can be understood as the sanctions or punishments within the control of the leader. Coercive power is the ability to punish for not complying with influence attempts. Coercive power is a force held by those who can cause others to have unpleasant experiences. Examples include discharge, demotion and other disciplinary actions as well as threats to act. Managers need to exercise caution because the use of coercive power may bring about the opposite result that the power-holder intends. To be effective, coercive power must not be threatened beyond what the leader is willing to administer. Although reward power can be exercised by virtually anyone, coercive power is related to the role or legitimate position an individual occupies. For example, a peer can threaten to get another peer fired, but although unpleasant, the threat is generally not considered coercive power. When a supervisor makes the same threat, though, the influence attempt takes on an entirely different meaning. Sheley K. considers that the use of coercive power actually decreases productivity.

3. Legitimate power is held by individuals because their position, role or status provides an organizationally or culturally afforded right to direct the action of others. Legitimate power is based upon a mutually accepted perception that the power-holder has the right to influence the recipient. For instance, in an organization the manager has the right to expect certain tasks of the unit to be completed by subordinates. As a complementary right the subordinate expects to receive certain fair compensation for doing those tasks. This process has been termed “psychological contracts”. Supervisors have legitimate power over subordinates. As such, certain rights and responsibilities are legitimately defined and generally understood by group members. Disagreement can surround the ability of the legitimate leader, yet most agree that certain leadership responsibilities accompany the position. For example, virtually every president of the United States has supporters and critics, yet despite these diverse opinions few would disagree that the individual is legitimately the president.

4. Referent power is a result of others identifying with the leader. It is a power base that is only indirectly related to the leader’s overt influence attempts. Referent power comes from the desire of others to use the leader as a reference or from others seeking to imitate the leader’s behaviors with or without the leader’s desire for them to do so. Referent power results from actions of the leader, yet the leader cannot directly exercise referent power; instead, it is assigned by others. The recipient’s identification with the power-holder is the basis of referent power. The recipient desires to be like the power-holder and therefore may act, perceive, feel or think like the power-holder. In a sense, this is a form of charisma that draws respect and attracts others to the power-holder. In an organization, certain top managers may have referent power with young managers who aspire to reach those positions by emulating their success.

5. Connection power is the influence leaders have as a result of who they know and the support they have from others in the organization. Generally conceived of as support from others in power, connection power also comes from followers. Supervisors and managers are generally in better influence positions when follower “connections” are supportive. In turn, group members are more influential when their leaders are “connected” to others in the organization. Connection power is understood by observing communication networks and how individuals are linked throughout the organization.

6. Expert or information power rests on what the leader knows as a result of organizational interaction or areas of technical specialty. As such, expert power does not require legitimate power for the expert to be influential. Expert power can be used without coercive power and often contributes to the development of referent power. Expert power is considered to be important for organizational excellence and is ideally the basis of effective influence attempts. Expert power is based on the special ability and knowledge that the power-holder has and is needed by the recipient. Accountants, engineers and computer specialists gain organizational power as a result of information they collect and the knowledge they obtained from their professional training. A major problem with expert power as a power base is that it depends on the perceptions of others. And these perceptions are not always accurate. Furthermore, expert knowledge can quickly be used up as the problem is solved

The preceding six sources of power are not completely independent. The person with legitimate power often has reward and coercive power. The person with reward power usually has coercive power. The use of expert power can increase one’s referent power. One study made by Myers R.J. showed that expert power is perceived as most effective in inducing workers’ acceptance of change, whereas coercive and legitimate power were least effective. In addition, individuals were more likely to attribute compliance to their own will if referent, expert or reward power was used, and less so if coercive or legitimate power was used. Another study made by Pfeffer J. showed that the greater the coercive power – punitive behavior of supervisors – the greater the reported prevalence of fear, anxiety, anger and depression among subordinates.

The implications for a manager to have power are to

• Have a position with clear legitimate power;

• Have ability to reward compliance;

• Establish respect and attractiveness;

• Develop expertise.

The characteristics of the power-holder may alter the influence attempts. If the leadership style is perceived by the subordinate as appropriate for the present conditions, then the influence attempt will be more successful. For example, using situational theories, certain conditions of task uncertainty are conductive to the manager’s being very task-oriented with subordinates.

Trust, credibility, prestige and self-confidence are important power-holder characteristics. These qualities are not only significant for the manager who is attempting to persuade subordinates to follow a policy or decision, but also for the participative manager whose subordinates must believe that their involvement is not a guise for manipulating them to adopt a predetermined decision. A person who feels confident that an attempt to use power will be successful will use power more effectively. This self-confidence is based on the power-holder’s perception of personal power and the amount of supervisory experience he or she has had.

Methods of influence and power are interconnected.

While there are a multitude of means to influence the recipient, they can be classified into two categories – direct and indirect. The following table shows the methods of influence derived by Kotter in a study of twenty-six organizations. He classified tactics according to whether they involved face-to-face (direct) or indirect influence. He concluded that successful managers are able to and do use all the influence methods.

Face-to-face methods

What they can influence



Exercise obligation-based power

Behavior within zone that the other perceives as legitimate in light of the obligation

Quick. Requires no outlay of tangible resources

If the request is outside the acceptable zone, it will fail; if it is too far outside, others might see it as illegitimate

Exercise power based on perceived expertise

Attitudes and behavior within the zone of perceived expertise

Quick. Requires no outlay of tangible resources

If the request is outside the acceptable zone, it will fail; if it is too far outside, others might see it as illegitimate

Exercise power based on identification with a manager

Attitudes and behavior that are not in conflict with the ideas that underlie the identification

Quick. Requires no expenditure of limited resources

Restricted to influence attempts that are not in conflict with the ideas that underlie the identification

Exercise power based on perceived dependence

Wide range of behavior that can be monitored

Quick. Can often succeed when other methods fail

Repeated influence attempts encourage the other to gain power over the influencer

Coercively exercise power based on perceived dependence. Use persuasion

Wide range of behavior that can be easily monitored. Very wide range of attitudes and behavior

Quick. Can often succeed when other methods fail. Can produce internalized motivation that does not require monitoring. Requires no power or outlay of scarce material resources

Can be very time-consuming. Requires other person to listen

Combine these methods

Depends on the exact combination

Can be more potent and less risky than using a single method

More costly than using a single method

Indirect methods

What they can influence



Manipulate the other’s environment by using any or all of the face-to-face methods

Wide range of behavior and attitudes

Can succeed when face-to-face methods fail

Can be time-consuming. Is complex to implement. Is very risky, especially if used frequently.

Change the forces that continuously act on the individual. Formal organizational arrangements, informal social arrangements, technology, resources available, statement of organizational goals

Wide range of behavior and attitudes on a continuous basis

Has continuous influence, not just a one-shot effect. Can have a very powerful impact

Often requires a considerable power outlay to achieve

Choice of methods is constrained by the power-holder’s base of power. Methods based on formal authority are not usable unless the appropriate authority is granted. Giving or withholding information is not possible unless the power-holder has control of the information. Indirect influence is difficult if one has no network of contacts or no control over structural aspects concerning the recipient. In addition, the choice of methods is situational dependent. The effective use of power is contingent on the user’s sensitivity to the particular situation, to the methods and to the people involved. Effective users of power begin with subtle methods, evolving to harsher methods only as required.


1. Callahan E, Robert, Fleenor C, Patric, Knudson R, Harry. Understanding organizational behavior. A managerial viewpoint. Charles E. Merril Publishing Company. 1986.

2. Fombrum, C. Strategic Human Resource Management. - New York: Wiley, 1984.

3. Shockley-Zalabak, Pamela. Fundamentals of organizational communication: knowledge, sensitivity, skills, values. Allyn and Bacon edition. 2002.

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №3 - 2010

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