The Five Points of Leadership and Power by French and Raven

What is Power?

In its basic terminology, power refers to the influence you have over the behaviour of another person. Undeniably we all possess a degree of power. However, it is a matter of distinguishing how much, or more specifically, what type of power each of us has.

French and Raven's 5 star Points of Power

French and Raven’s 5 star Points of Power

According to researchers, in particular, French and Raven (1959), there are 5 points of power an individual possesses in order to influence another person – hence the 5 points of the star diagram.

These researchers identified the main types of power, as illustrated in the diagram, as well as identifying the sixth one which was added later by Raven.

Legitimate Power: Encourages Compliance

The formal power given to an individual in lieu of their hierarchical role: e.g. President, Prime Minister, Head-Teacher etc. These types of roles hold expectations of an individual to comply with the power used. People obey this person simply because of their position in society. This type of power is easily lost and is not related to personality of individual in power.

Legitimate power makes an individual feel obliged and responsible. Reward and punishment are both used by the formal leaders. As this type of power is not strong enough to influence people, it is not usually the only type that can be used by a leader to rely upon.

Reward Power: Encourages Compliance

The person in power has the ability to request compliance from an individual through means of a reward system. This control over the reward system includes aspects such as wages, food, co-operation etc. This powerful person may even do trade favours with an individual.

The most common types of reward are offering raises and promotions. But when such rewards have been used up, the power weakens. Also the individual may lack motivation and become dissatisfied, thus the reward needs to be increased each time it is offered.

The rewards types are further divided into 2 groups

  1. Impersonal such as food, shelter and other necessities for survival.
  2. Personal such as the compliments, smiling and promises of acceptance.

Coercive Power: Encourages Resistance

This is fear based power. Individuals with this type of power have the ability to make life difficult for those who do not comply with their requests or orders. People with this type of power use punishment as a means of achieving control. For example if an individual does not comply then there is a threat of withdrawal of rewards and in extreme cases even dismissal.

Although the power role holds significance, it appears that the type of punishment is also dependant on the personality of the role player in power. Individuals fear resisting the power authority or getting these powerful types of people angry as it can have dire consequences.

This form of power demands compliance and can even resort to abuse to attain it. As a result of this forceful power, a lot of negativity and resentment can build up in the minds of individual being influenced by coercive power.

Expert Power: Encourages Commitment

This is based on an individual possessing special knowledge, skills and expertise. For example: Doctors, Electricians and Teachers. Their respect is earned by virtue of their specialist knowledge and skill and this respect also helps to build trust in the authority figure. When it is perceived that an individual holds so much respectable knowledge, people give these people the power due their superior knowledge. This type of power is closely related to employee performance.

Referent Power: Encourages Commitment

This type of power is individual based and is specifically applicable to the person’s personal qualities such as their charisma and charm. Due to the warm personality this type of leader is likely to evoke feelings of admiration from others.

People known to you personally have this type of influence over you such as parents and friends. Many great leaders have been known to use their personality to influence the crowds. Also this type of power is most commonly found in celebrities and even military figures.

Informational Power

To expand this 5 point list later (1965), Raven came up with Informational Power. This is closely related to “Expert Power” in that it refers specifically to being able to provide information to other people to cause them to act in a new way. This form of power potentially utilizes information so that it can be used to manipulate and control by abusing the way the power is used such as falsifying it or keeping it a secret or sharing it with certain people.

These points of power are all probably recognized by you. Identify the ones that you use and see if you can improve on the ones that you are weak in. When used wisely, these 5 points can improve immensely the ability to use your power effectively.

Remember any form of power can be legitimately used as well as abused so always use whatever influence you have over others wisely.

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