The power determines the ability of a leader to influence the actions or decisions made within the company. The concepts of leadership and taxonomy are directly related and it is necessary to analyze them to be able to understand the different ways leaders can gain power. The researchers’ John French and Bertram Raven (as cited in Elias, 2008) identified five main sources of power, which are “reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, and referent” (p. 270). It is crucial to consider each type separately to understand their nature and their effect on the working environment.
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The first type of power defined by the researchers is referred to as legitimate. The legitimate authority can be assigned to the person following his or her position in the formal structure of the organization (Elias, 2008). The second type is the power based on coercion; French and Raven determined it as an authority gained by the fear provoked in an individual. They believed that a person reacts to this power through the prism of the fear of negative consequences that are possible in the case of disobedience. It is based on the use (or the threat of) sanctions.
The third type of authority based on the reward as opposed to the coercive power and they are mutually exclusive. For instance, the workers will agree to meet the settled requirement as it will provide them with certain benefits; thus, a person who attributes rewards valuable for other people has the power over them. In the context of an organization, the reward is usually money, high-performance evaluation indicators, career opportunities, comfortable work shifts, and so on (Elias, 2008). The power based on coercion and reward power is opposed indeed. If the leader deprives an individual of something worthy, he or she applies the power based on coercion. If, on the contrary, the leader assigns something evaluated positively, he or she utilizes the reward power approach.
The fourth type of power is the expert authority. It is expressed in the influence that a person can gain due to his or her distinct skills, knowledge or experience. In recent years, as a consequence of rapid technological progress, this type of power has become strong in various organizations that are in demand for highly-qualified specialists in this sphere (Elias, 2008). The fifth category defined by French and Raven is the referent power. The power of this type lies in the specific abilities and personal characteristics of individuals. These two types of power are not fully mutually exclusive. It is due to their different degrees of abstraction.
The concept of taxonomy altered over the years. The reward power was divided into individual and depersonalized forms. The same rule was applied to the coercive form of power. Regarding the legitimate authority, the researchers have made distinctions between several types of it. The category started including such notions as dependence, position, interaction, and equity (Bauer et al., 2006).
It is worthy of mentioning that the mutual categories of the referent and expert power have received variations as well. They have been classified according to the positive and negative implications. Apart from that, some researchers strived for differentiation of the French and Raven’s approach; nevertheless, the scope of their classifications was not perceived as exhaustive (Quicke, 2013).
In conclusion, any concept of leadership is associated with the power that managers or other workers in the leadership positions have over their subordinates; the ways they utilize that power influences the behavior and the level of productivity of the employees. It should be noted that the most effective leaders apply different or several approaches at a time to gain flexibility and to adjust the performance of the staff as per the situation requirements. For instance, the manager will need to use both legitimate and referent power to force the subordinates to accept the planned organizational changes. Thus, the outcomes are achieved faster and in a more efficient way.
Bauer, T., Truxillo, D., Tucker, J., Weathers, V., Bertolino, M., Erdogan, B., & Campion, M. (2006). Selection in the information age. Journal of Management, 32(5), 601-621.
Elias, S. (2008). Fifty years of influence in the workplace. Journal of Management History, 14(3), 267-283.
Quicke, D. (2013). Principles and techniques of contemporary taxonomy. New York, NY: Springer.