Leadership and Power Relations


Leaders must employ power to improve the individual, team, and organizational outcomes effectively. Power refers to the ability to influence, persuade, and support an individual or team’s efforts to accomplish a goal (Peyton et al., 2620). The purpose of this presentation is to describe leadership power based on French and Raven’s theory. The presentation also highlights the strengths, criticisms, recommendations of the concept, and its practical application in organizational leadership.

Description of leadership power

French and Raven’s theory identifies five bases of leadership power: reward, legitimacy, referent, expert, and coercion.

Reward refers to a leader’s capacity to mediate a recompense for their employees, either by increasing positive outcomes or removing adverse and undesirable results (Kovach 15). A legitimate executive has the right and justification for imposing change or influencing workers. A manager’s social structure, such as age, physical characteristics, behaviors, religion, or gender, can affect the workers’ decision to accept their authority.

Referent power highlights the boss’s ability to cultivate or nurture respect and admiration from their staff. A powerful head/managing director should possess qualities, which attract followers and provoke admiration and the desire to belong (Kovach 15). An expert leader possesses cognitive, social, and behavioral knowledge to influence and change employees’ conduct and solve everyday problems.

Coercive power is the only leadership skill that has been associated with negative influence. Coercion is an administrator’s capability to manipulate their followers to achieve a preferable outcome (Jaunaimah et al. 2). It involves threatening or invoking fear of punishment if the staff members fail to conform to their leader’s influence.

Practical Examples of the Approach


Rewards can motivate staff to increase production or the input of achieving organizational goals. An example of reward power is to offer a promotion to an employee if they increase their sales by a specific rate. Other actual rewards such as cash compensation, opportunities for personal growth, and a positive work environment can also be used to influence or motivate workers to attain desired outcomes (Jaunaimah et al. 3). The leader should ensure that workers have adequate resources to fulfill the promise of rewards; any unsuccessful attempt can decrease the executive’s power.


Unlike other powers, legitimacy strongly depends on the leader’s position or hierarchy at the office. Without a leadership position, one has no legitimate right or authority over his followers. An example of legitimacy power is when an organization’s department head develops expected goals for each team member. Another instance is when people comply with the orders of police officers during traffic. The police and department executive both derive their power from their positions.


Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, was a revered leader in the telecommunications industry, given his expert and referent power. In referent power, the executive must possess desirable qualities to attract followers (Kovach 15). Steve Job’s tenacity, vision, commitment, expertise, and hard work significantly contributed to Apple Corporation’s success. He attracted and retained top-level talent in his company through his excellent leadership skills.


When a leader is an expert in a particular specialty, followers abide by his or her recommendations without questioning his judgment because they trust the information. Expert power does not depend on an executive’s position or hierarchy at the organization (Peyton et al., leading 2620). For example, an organization’s CEO can comply with a system repairer’s recommendations despite his or her superiority. However, if a manager fails to meet the expected expertise level, the respect accorded to him may diminish.


The primary goal of coercion is to compel desirable behaviors from workers. A leader can use threats such as demotion, pay cuts, or employee termination on those who do not comply with the stipulated actions. For instance, a manager can issue a suspension warning to a staff member who fails to change an unacceptable deportment or conform to the organizational norms. The threat will force the workers to adhere to the leader’s orders to avoid suspension.

Strengths and Criticisms of Approach

Leadership power can result in three significant outcomes: commitment, resistance, and/or compliance.

According to Jaunaimah et al., reward, referent, and expert powers positively correlate with job satisfaction (4). Expert and referent powers do not rely on position or authority to lead but focus on personal characteristics which foster positive workplace relationships.

Increased job contentment/fulfillment may lead to employee commitment, following the activation of independent conformity. Workers become motivated to deliver results to get the promised rewards, gain acceptance and admiration from the leader (legitimate power) or avert possible repercussions (coercive power). Employee satisfaction typically increases with the level of rewards or recognition.

However, recompenses have been criticized for encouraging unethical conduct.

While employees’ compliance is necessary for a leader’s success, it has also been proven to be counterproductive. It can easily lead to passive resistance, sabotage, hostile work environments, and job dissatisfaction.

Jaunaimah et al. showed that coercive power adversely impacts job satisfaction. Job dissatisfaction can lead to a lack of commitment or malicious retaliatory behavior (5). Staff members may not exhibit passive or active resistance in response to being threatened, coerced, or manipulated into doing something they do not like.

Approach Recommendations

Leaders should be conscious of the power bases that they choose to use to manage employees in an organization. The power bases can lead to behavioral changes, including commitment, resistance, and compliance, consequently prompting productivity and performance in the organization. However, not all leadership powers can result in positive outcomes. The extent of the outcomes also depends on the magnitude of the leading power imposed upon the leader’s followers.

An Activity to Apply the Theory

A case study analysis can be used to help students apply leadership power principles. In the case study, a hypothetical problem is created, and one student is selected from a group and allowed to resolve the issue. The student will take up a leadership role and apply leadership power conceptualizations to influence the remaining group members to achieve the goal, which is to resolve the hypothetical problem.


Power does not always originate from the leadership position of an individual.

Legitimate coercion and reward power heavily rely on an executive’s stance and authority level, whereas expert and referent power depend on personal attributes and interpersonal relationships.

Leaders can use any of the five power types to achieve organizational goals and effectively manage their followers.

However, each of the bases of power will have different influences on employees. The type of leadership power and the magnitude will significantly affect workers’ attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.

Works Cited

Kovach, Mary. “Leader Influence: A Research Review of French & Raven’s Power Dynamics.” Journal of Values-Based Leadership, vol. 13, no. 2, 2020, pp. 15.

Peyton, Taylor, Zigarmi, Drea, and Fowler, Susan. “Examining the Relationship Between Leaders’ Power Use, Followers’ Motivational Outlooks, and Followers’ Work Intentions.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, 2019, pp. 2620.

Jaunaimah, Jauhar et al. “Effect of Manager’s Bases of Power on Employee Job Satisfaction- An Empirical Study of Satisfaction with Supervision.” International Journal of Economics, Commerce, and Management, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1-14.

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