Leadership is known by many names – directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony, authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness, sway, and clout. Regardless of the many names, leadership is simply one person or persons influencing another person or persons. But why, why and how does a person influence another? What’s that magic trick? Upon two people coming together for dialogue, why does one of the people want to do what the other person says? The answer is within the power used by the leader. Leaders use Position Power, Reward Power, Coercive Power , Expert Power, and Referent Power to influence others to perform.
Position Power is one way a manager influences subordinates to perform. Position Power is when a manager has authority and influence over employees because of the title alone. The title allows the manager the freedom to reward or punish subordinates with no penalties from the company. The phrase “do it because I’m your boss” is an example of Position Power. Employees know full-well that if they don’t do what the boss says, discipline and penalties will follow.
Reward Power is another way managers can influence others. Reward Power is when a manager gets compliance from others by rewarding them for the behavior. Managers, can reward others with tangible thing like money and promotions. A tangible example would be a manager saying to a subordinate,”if you achieve such-and-such result, I will promote you to the next level”. The subordinate wants the promotion so they work hard achieving the result. Hence, the manager has effectively influenced the behavior with a tangible reward. An intangible example would be a manager telling an employee “I really like how well you handle three different responsibilities simultaneously”. The employee likes how they feel when the hard work is appreciated by the boss and continues to achieve the result. Hence, the manager has effectively influenced the employee to continue performing well with an intangible reward.
Coercive Power is another way a manager can influence employees. Coercive Power is similar to Reward Power but with penalties instead of rewards. With Coercive Power, a manager removes or punishes an employee if a performance standard isn’t met. An example would be a manager telling an underperforming employee that if they didn’t improve performance, they could lose their job. The employee wants and needs the job, therefor they start performing according to standard. In this way, a manager is using Coercive Power to influence performance.
Another way to influence others is by using Expert Power. Expert Power is the ability to get someone to do what you want because they think you’re an expert on the subject. Employees believe a manager has high level of knowledge or a specialized set of skills that other employees or members of the organization do not possess. Because employees believe this, they will follow direction given by the manager. After all, the manager knows what they’re talking about because they’re an expert, right? Another example of Expert Power is when we talk to an I.T. person or tech person. On a phone call with a tech person, we don’t know what they look like and have never dealt with this individual before. In our minds however, we believe in their expertise to fix our issue and will happily follow their direction over the phone. Hence, the tech person is influencing our behavior with Expert Power.
Finally, there’s Referent Power. Referent Power is less black-and-white than the other leadership powers because it’s earned with respect and respect can be earned in many ways. “We can gain Referent Power when others trust what we do and respect us for how we handle situations” (http://www.quickbase.com/blog/the-5-types-of-power-in-leadership). The trust and respect happens when employees see how a manager handles difficult situations. They may watch the manager suffer through a difficult moment and emerge as positive and encouraging as ever. Trust and respect happens when employees watch what a manager does for the company. They might see the manager delivering above-standard results. The employees could also see how the manager defends the company in difficult times. Trust and respect also happens when employees see what a manager does for people. Employees could witness a manager helping a struggling employee or developing an employee to a higher position. Once the staff understands what the manager is about in an admirable way, the manager can greatly influence the employees work.
Leaders use Position Power, Reward power, Coercive power, Expert power, and Referent power to influence others to perform. Position Power uses authority to influence. Reward and Coercive Power uses consequences to influence. Expert Power uses skills to influence. Referent Power uses trust and respect to influence. Each is effective in its own way and each should be delivered by a manager in mixed doses except for Referent Power. The hardest to earn and most effective, Referent Power is permanent!