What is Power, Bases of Power

Thu, 07/28/2011 - 06:34 -- Umar Farooq

What is Power

Power is a capacity or potential that a person A has to influence the behavior of another person B that B does things he or she would not otherwise do. It is a function of dependence, the greater B’s dependence on A, the greater is A’s power in the relationship. For A to get B to do something he or she otherwise would not do means that B must have the discretion to make choices.  

The use of power and politics is a fact of life in organization. If someone wants to get things done, must have power.  Organization made up of individuals and groups who seek to gain power in order to favorably influence the allocation of organizational resources.

Contrasting Leadership and Power

Leadership and Power as two concepts are closely intertwined. Leaders use power as a means of attaining group goals, and power is a means of facilitating their achievements. One different relates to goal compatibility; power does not required goal compatibility, only dependence. Leadership requires some congruence between the goal of the leader and the led. Another difference is the direction of influence. Leadership focuses on downwards influence on one’s subordinates, while power does not. Power can be used laterally, upwardly, and by groups as well as individuals.

Bases of Power

Bases of power looks at: where does power come from? French and Raven propose a classification that has been further refined by Robbins by separating the bases and sources so as to develop clearly and more independent categories. Bases of power refer to what power-holders control that allow them to manipulate the behavior of others. These are;

  1. Coercive power-power that is based on fear,
  2. Reward power-power based on different distribution of rewards that others view as valuable.
  3. Legitimate power- the power  a person receive as a result of his or her position in the formal hierarchy of an organization, (for a humorous example,)
  4. Expert power- influence wielded as a result of expertise, special like skill, or knowledge,
  5. Refer power-identification with a person who has desirable resources or personal traits, the power of being likable.