The Bases of Social Power
Power means a variety of things for different people. Processes of power are complex, well concealed, yet deeply entrenched in our societies. John French and Bertram Raven in the early 1960’s (French and Raven) advanced a theory that identified five bases of organizational power, and how they affected leadership ability.
Their theory propelled from the premise that power is a product of the relationship between two agents, where there is an influence and a change or lack thereof, that results.Influence on a person, produced by a certain social agent can result in a change directed towards the intended direction by the social agent or an opposite resistive direction, still influenced by the same agent.
Power thus becomes the maximum resultant of these two opposing forces.They concluded that these bases of power would produce different consequences depending on how they were used. These sources include; reward power, which is based on the perception that one has the ability to acknowledge and reward, coercive power, which is hinged on the perceived notion that one can impose punitive measures.
The third is legitimate power, which is regarded as being able to exercise authority lawfully, due to a certain position of the power conferred while referent power would refer to power because of association with others who possess power (Ott, Simpson and Sandra).
Finally, Expert Power, which is based on the idea that one has knowledge, skill, or expertise in a given subject matter. For all these five types of power, several hypotheses (French and Raven)were drawn; Greater power is directly proportional to the strength of the basis of power
Referent power, generally, has a wider range
Coercion would result in more resistance towards the power figure while reward power is vice versa.
Trying to use any base of power outside its scope would likely dilute the power.
Legitimate coercion would be met with decreased resistance
French, John R.P and Bertram Raven. "The Bases of social power."
Natemeyer, Walter E and Paul Hersey. Classics of Organisational behavior. Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press, , 2011. 398-410.
Ott, Steven J, Richard B Simpson and Parkes J Sandra. Classic readings in organizational behavior.
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