In our last post, we looked at the bases of power that are positional in nature. That is, they are based on something innate above a position you have or something you control. In this post, we’ll look at bases of personal power – these are things more oriented around you.
While many people who write on these will save this one for last (it was the last one added by Raven several years after he published the other 5 with French), I’m covering it first here because it can have positional elements to it. Information power is based on information you have, and that those you want to exert power over want to have. The more position oriented elements of power are things like who might be laid off, or the latest, not yet published financial results. Information power can reach broader though, and its power is in the information, not how that information was obtained.
The things to remember about information power is that it is often fleeting. There is an old saying: “A secret that is known by more than one person, is not a secret.” Once the information is disclosed, you can’t take it back. Make sure that your use of the information is ethical, and, likewise, be careful how you use it.
Specialized knowledge or experience that you have, and that few if any other people have (at least, among those reasonably available) provides a degree of power. If your knowledge allows you to find solutions others wouldn’t find, find solutions faster than others would find it, accomplish tasks others can’t accomplish, or simply outperform others, then you have expert power.
Since this is a site largely about leadership, and leadership is one of my core program areas, I feel it is important to point out that good leaders work to maximize their expertise, but they also work to share that expertise. The point is, if you have expert power, and are a leader, then you should be working to disperse that expert power to others.
Were you to Google this one, you would likely find two ways this is defined, but I’ll stick with the way it is address in French & Raven’s original research. They describe referent power as being granted based on affected person having a sense of oneness or desiring to be like the person they are granting power to. You can think of this as kids who want to be like their favorite sports star, or, more relevant to the leadership world, a particular leader they admire and want to be like. Reverent power can also be granted to a group someone wants to be a member of. You may, for example, hold rocket scientists in awe, and be particularly influenced by them based on a wish that you could be like them.
Over the last few posts, we’ve laid out different types of power. In general, for leadership purposes, we’re focused on social power, as it is one way to gain a level of influence. Leadership guru (and virtual mentor of mine) John C. Maxwell specifically defines references influence when defining leadership: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” Power is not the only form or method of building influence, but it does provide one piece of the puzzle. We’ll explore other inputs to building a strong leadership presence in future posts.