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Approach to Leadership, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 633

Essay

Power-influence approach to leadership relies on the power and influence yielded by the leaders to get things done. Social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven identified five sources of power that an individual may possess and French and Raven’s theory applies to leaders as well. These five sources of power are Legitimate Power, Reward Power, Expert Power, Referent Power, and Coercive Power (MindTools).

Legitimate power comes from one’s formal rank or a position in a social/cultural hierarchy. This power is not permanent in nature because it stems more from the position being held by the individual rather than the individual himself and, thus, is easily transferable to another person. Legitimate power is often limited in nature because it only extends to the situations that come under the leader’s responsibility. Reward power comes from the fact that the leaders can give rewards for desirable behavior. Thus, the presence of rewards increases the incentive to obey the leader’s desires and instructions rather than going against them. Coercive power on the other hand comes from the fact that the leaders can also hand out punishment or deny rewards for undesirable behavior. The three powers discussed so far come primarily from the positions held by the leaders and are, thus, called Positional Power Sources (MindTools).

The other two powers are called Personal Power Sources because leaders possess them due to personal traits. A leader yields an expert power because his followers believe that the leader has the knowledge, skills, experience, and better judgment to understand situations and come up with solutions. Thus, the followers follow the leader out of respect and trust in his abilities. Similarly, referent power is the outcome of followers liking and respecting a leader and associating with him in some manner (MindTools). Politicians often take advantage of referent power to influence their followers.

Different types of powers have different advantages and disadvantages. Expert power and referent power have the ability to inspire followers to go beyond their basic responsibilities in order to achieve the goals set by the leaders. When people willingly follow a leader, they are more likely to do their best because they want the leader to succeed. Former advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton, Steve Carey once stated, “I obey a manager because I have to. I follow a leader because I want to.” (Forster, 2011). It is likely that President Bill Clinton yielded expert or referent power over his followers. But at the same time, referent power could also be used for personal gains at the expense of the majority. A major shortcoming of legitimate power is that followers follow leader’s instructions because they have and they may just put in sufficient efforts to get the job done. Another problem with positional power sources is that the leaders may use coercive or reward powers to force the followers to act in unethical manners and punish those who refuse to obey. Similarly, reward power only works if the followers deem the rewards attractive and of reasonable value (MindTools).

An example of a power used by the leader in an organization was that of Warren Buffet after he guided Salomon Brothers as CEO through one of the organization’s toughest times. Salomon Brothers might have collapsed were it not for Warren Buffet’s reputation. Buffet used his referent power to restore confidence in the Wall Street firm. Buffet enjoyed referent power because of his reputation of strict adherence to moral and ethical values (Lewis, Goodman, Fandt, & Michlitsch, 2006).

References

Forster, N. (2011). Maximum Performance: A Practical Guide to Leading and Managing People at Work. Saudi Arabia: Al Faisal University.

Lewis, P. S., Goodman, S. H., Fandt, P. M., & Michlitsch, J. (March 14, 2006). Management: Challenges for Tomorrow’s Leaders (5th ed.). South-Western College Publications.

MindTools. (n.d.). French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_56.htm

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