Self-discipline and clarity are usually assets to those on the road to becoming effective leaders. When an individual models these behaviors to their team it often inspires people to behave similarly. Modeling of desired behaviors can also result in more independent and better-motivated employees as modeling is a form of empowerment.
Furthermore, when talking about power dynamics and leadership styles, it helps to remember that confidence can play a significant role in strong leadership. A good leader does not need to force people to act in specific ways and meet their goals; the bases of power in leadership that is often most valued by employees are support and empathy.
This article will specifically explore the types of power in leadership through the two main branches (formal and personal power) that are further divided into smaller subcategories.
We begin with formal power which is further divided into the subcategories of coercive power, reward power, and legitimate power. Formal power refers to the power that a person has because of the position they are in.
Reward power works through a reward for desirable behavior and outcomes. This practice is based on the principle that positive reinforcement can often foster a healthy work environment and excitement in the team. It is important to offer rewards where possible – bearing in mind that rewards do not need to be big every time. Reward power can only be enforced when leaders are equipped to offer incentives. In general, reward incentives work best when a workplace leader can offer rewards that are relevant to employees. Reward power serves quite successfully to boost productivity within the workplace. However, there is never a guarantee that it will work for every workforce. It is best to establish what works best for your staff and adopt those strategies as far as possible.
Legitimate power comes from a position constituting power in a business, for example, key members of the leadership team. When employees in a business recognize and respect individual authority, the power is considered legitimate. To exercise power in a legitimate way can best be done through leading by example – through modeled behavior to employees. Transparency further encourages the legitimacy of power as leadership can make it clear why and how certain things align with company goals. This helps employees understand how they can make a difference in the business.
When those who have control over employees and business practices model certain behaviors in a particular area, it is easier for a person in a lower position to behave in desired ways. It should also be mentioned that it is best to use different types of power together in management and never rely solely on one leadership strategy.
While many leaders find power in more positive allies, the coercive type of power sometimes seen in leadership revolves around a fear imposed on losing one’s job. It is a threatening position that is taken up by some leaders. With this type of power, there is usually high expectation.
While some power strategies are beneficial to the business, coercive power cannot build credibility as the influence is largely negative. Threat and force exercised over employees create a hostile business culture which can be harmful to business practices. However, we cannot say that coercive power never works, and due to the individuality and diversity of the global workforce, there might be some scenarios where coercive power comes in handy.
This category is divided into expert power and referent power and refers to power than individual possesses in their personal attitude and behavior.
Expert power involves years of training and experience to be built up by a person before they can be considered an expert to the degree that it affords them this leadership power. For many companies a leader’s ability to influence employees through their knowledge and expert power is important, but this will not be the case in all organizations.
Experience and ability often bring respect because people might prefer to have someone in the lead who knows what they are doing, someone who is an expert in their own field. Having someone in a position of authority who understand the that work is being done by their staff can be a motivational aspect for most people in a business.
Referent power comes from the respect and trust of others for someone who behaves morally in a leadership position. It is a kind of leadership power that can only be gained through the respect of the team. This type of power is arguably the most valuable because it allows for relationships to be built within a company. It is dependent on personal traits, and someone with referent power can have significant influence over someone who respects them.
Referent power is often akin to the power held by role models. A leader with strong interpersonal skills channels referent power. This is not one of the types of power a leader can come by on their own because the power is given by the one admiring the leader.
Understanding types of power in leadership often helps a business to grow as areas needing to develop further are clearer. Leaders who inspire the workforce also usually have more loyal staff than those who intimidate.
There are disadvantages and advantages to each of the types of power mentioned above, but we should also mention that this is not an exhaustive list. Social psychologists have identified a number of different variants of power that a leader may hold, and this article has focused only on the most common. Other types of power might include charismatic power, informational power, connection power, and expertise power. These are not types of power reserved solely for those in a company leadership role; basically, anyone can achieve knowledge and power in a business if they can inspire and cultivate credibility for their expertise. Those in a power position should understand that they are the ones relied upon, not only in small businesses but in large multinational corporations as well.
Regardless of where in a company an individual finds themselves, cultivating power and building on strengths often results in professional advancement. Those already in leadership positions might climb the executive ladder even higher. Those still among mid-level staff can approach the first wrung with confidence and security in their convictions.