Power can be defined as the ability to influence or bring about change in the behaviour of others.

It refers to a person's ability to affect the behaviour of other people through the control of important resources.

Max Weber, the father of bureaucracy,  defined power as the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own despite resistance.

It can also refer to the ability to make things happen or get things done the way you want.

In short, Po is the ability to exert influence.

When a person has power, he can influence the attitudes of others 

Features Of Power

1. Power is situational: Power is driven by extant situations. 

The bearer of power is determined by the circumstances

When the situation changes, the form of power changes as well.

For example, if a teacher becomes unwell and is taken to the hospital, the doctor who will treat him is likely to have expert power.

To illustrate, when a teacher is sick and taken to the hospital, the doctor that will treat him usually possess expert power.

If, on the other hand, the doctor decides to enrol his child in the teacher's school, the teacher, not the doctor, has expert power.

As another example, a football coach can bench a player who is not performing up to par (coercive power). 

However, if the situation changes and the player starts playing beyond the coach's expectation, the football coach rewards the player with a start position (reward power)

2. Power is relational: Power exists in the context of relationships. It can only be exercised only if there is a relationship between the influencer (power holder) and the influences ( person(s) to whom power is exercised)

For example, a manager who has a working relationship with his subordinates can exert Influence on them.

Essentially, managers exercise legitimate power over subordinates within the scope of the manager-subordinate relationship.

3. It represents dependency: Power is also a function of the degree of dependency.

The greater "B's" is dependent on "A", the more power "A's" has over B in the relationship.

Indeed, A person can have power over you only if he possesses what you truly desire.

4. Must be backed by the threat of sanctions: Power must be backed by sanctions (real or implied) to ensure its effectiveness

Sources or types of power

1. Reward power: As the name implies, reward power is the ability to influence other people's behaviour through the use of rewards, perks, and incentives.

These incentives could come in the form of a pay raise, bonuses, promotions, or even award nominations.

Reward power is most effective when followers see a direct connection between performance and reward or where rewards are scarce.

If not, it is unlikely that reward power will be effective.

2. Coercive power:  This type of power entails a person's ability to use threats to compel others to do something he wants.

Coercive power usually results from the threat or expectation of sanctions if the manager's wishes are not obeyed or followed.

In the organization set up, coercive power translates into the manager's ability (real or implied) to reprimand, demote, transfer or fire subordinates for unsatisfactory execution of duties.

Subordinates might be punished if they do not follow commands or do not satisfy the set objectives of managers

Although coercive power can be used to deter bad behaviour, it should not be the preferred method of leading subordinates

This is because coercive power usually creates a negative atmosphere in the organization.

For example, coercive power has been linked to several dysfunctional group processes, including dislike, anger, resentment, rejection, conflict, and decreases in motivation

Coercive Power should be the last resort for managers.

That is, It should be used when all else fails and it is necessary to carry out a threat or in an emergency where absolute compliance is necessary 

3. Expert power: This is a kind of power derived from the skills and expertise of individuals, which are of higher quality and not easily available.

Expert power is a personal power acquired by expertise in a field or area

Because the person's skills and expertise are not common, he can use them to influence others.

Expert power is personal power that people exercise when they have knowledge and skill that others do not have or possess

For example, we generally follow our doctor's advice because we have faith in their medical abilities and knowledge

Thus, we can conclude that the doctor has expert power over his patients.

4. Legitimate power: This power emanates from the official position held by someone in an organization. 

Legitimate power comes from the organisational role or position held by a person.

It is the power vested in the manager to make certain decisions and take specific actions in the organization.

The manager's right to require and demand compliance comes from his legitimate power as derived from the chain of command.

Indeed, the amount of legitimate power a manager has is directly proportional to his scope of authority.

The lesser his scope of authority, the less legitimate power he has; the higher the scope of authority, the more legitimate power he has.

5. Referent power: This is a power that a person possesses as a result of other people's identification, association with, or respect for him/her

Referent power is more of a personal nature than a positional nature, in that, it is not obtained or acquired due to position, but because of the personal charisma of the leaders or power holder.

People/leaders with referent power are usually trustworthy and charming, allowing them to influence the behaviour of others.

Celebrities and movie stars typically possess referent power as they have a large following among the general public who like, identify with, and follow them, allowing them to have a long-term influence on a large number of decisions made by their followers.

In an organizational setup, referent power is mostly demonstrated by charismatic leaders who excel in making people feel comfortable in their presence.

Employees frequently communicate their enthusiasm for work in terms of their attraction to their leader's personality and charisma. 

They commit to their work because of the leader's likeability, and they rely on their leader's approval for their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

Rewards power, coercive power and legitimate power are positional powers because they are derived from a person's position. On the other hand, expert and referent powers are personal powers because they are more related to the person holding them.

Reference power (sometimes called charisma) can also refer to the ability to attract others, and gain their admiration so that you can exercise influence over their behaviours and actions.

Differences Between Power And Authority

1. Power is the ability to exert influence whereas authority is the ability to exert obedience

2. Authority flows downward in the organization, whereas power flows in all directions

3. Authority increases as we move up the organizational hierarchy whereas power may not necessarily increase as we move up the organizational hierarchy

4. Authority is always attached to position whereas power may be attached to individual

5. While Power is the ability to command, authority is the right to command.

6. Authority is the right to make decisions whereas power is the ability to affect changes.

7. Power can exist with or without authority whereas authority cannot exist without power.

As a matter of fact, authority is the legitimate power that a person or group is granted to make decisions and give orders within an organization.

So far, we've mentioned the term "influence" in our discussion. But, what exactly is influence?🤔


Influence is simply a person's ability to shape opinion or transform the behaviour of others. 

It is the ability to shape other people's thoughts and perspectives.

It is the influence that makes people act or modify their thoughts in response to the preferences or desires of a power holder.

Influence has a strong relationship with power. 

Influence is, in fact, the action exerted by a person with such power on another person to cause change  

The major difference between power and influence is the use of sanctions (real or implied). 

‘A’ has influence over ‘B’, when without the use of sanction (real or implied), ‘B’ is willing to change his course of action in response to ‘A’s demands.

On the other hand, 'A' has power over 'B', when with/without the use of sanction (real or implied), 'B' is willing to change his course of action in response to 'A's demand.

In a nutshell, the major difference between power and influence is that power involves the use of sanctions whereas influence does not.

Related post


We just talked about power. For a recap, power is the ability to influence the behaviour and opinions of others.

We identified four features of power, which are: it is situational, it is relational, it reflects dependency and must be accompanied by threats of sanction.

We also identified five sources of power: referent power, legitimate power, expert power, reward power and coercive power. 

Finally, we distinguished power from influence by pointing out that power involves the use of force whereas influence does not unsanctioned use of sanctions.

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