French and Raven’s bases of power came up in a recent conversation so it was on my mind as I considered the few minutes of the Republican debate I saw. The exchange was between Fiorina and Trump in response to a question about the economy and they bantered about their respective corporate successes and failures (during which both mentioned Jeff Sonnenfeld whom I worked for years ago at Emory).
French and Raven’s original model proposed a person’s power comes from one of five sources:
Legitimate – using formal authority to gain desired outcome (Army general)
Referent – using relationship skills to gain desired outcome (charismatic leader)
Expert – using specialized knowledge and skills to gain desired outcome (an attorney)
Reward – using positive or negative rewards to gain desired outcome (a carrot)
Coercion – using force to gain desired outcome (The Godfather)
Source of power is a useful lens under which to examine a leader or yourself. Considering where another person’s power comes from can help you craft an effective response. Understanding the basis of your power is yet another facet of self-awareness, but realize you may get your power from different sources in different relationships or situations.
Regarding the debate, it seems some of the candidates are still trying to figure out where their real power comes from.
Which source of power works most effectively for making things happen in your workplace? Share your thoughts in the comment section.