Bases of Social Power

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Identifying sources of power. Explanation of Bases of Social Power of French and Raven.

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Social powerProcesses of power are pervasive, complex, and often disguised in our society. The Bases of Social Power of French and Raven is a theory that  identifies five (six) bases or sources of social (organizational) power:

  1. Reward power. This form is based on the perceived ability to give positive consequences or remove negative ones.

  2. Coercive power. This is the perceived ability to punish those who not conform with your ideas or demands.

  3. Legitimate power (organizational authority). This form is based on the perception that someone has the right to prescribe behavior due to election or appointment to a position of responsibility. Also called Normative Power. Compare: Organization Chart.

  4. Referent power. This is power by virtue of the follower wanting to emulate the person who possesses this form of power (wanting to be be like him).

  5. Expert power. This type is based on having distinctive knowledge, expertness, ability or skills.

  6. Similar to 5: Information power. This form is based on controlling the information needed by others in order to reach an important goal.

The Five Bases of Social Power theory starts from the assumption that power and influence involve relations between at least two agents. The theory argues that the reaction of the receiving agent is the more useful focus for explaining the phenomena of social influence and power.


French and Raven examined the effect of power derived from the various bases of attraction and resistance to the use of power. Attraction and resistance are the recipient's sentiment towards the agent that uses power. They conclude that the use of power from the various bases has different consequences.

For example, coercive power typically decreases attraction and causes high resistance. Whereas reward power increases attraction and creates minimal levels of resistance.


French and Raven also concluded that "the more legitimate the coercion [is perceived to be], the less it will produce resistance and decreased attention".


Bases of Social Power Forum
  The Role of Influence in Leadership
Influence refers to the power of an individual to impel another person to action by either intangible or indirect means. Therefore it plays an important role in leadership. Kaufman (2011) developed six principles of influence that explain in wh...
     
 
  About Participative Power
- Common goals
- Clear vision
- Constant communication
- Everyone is involved
- Consensus (for important decisions)....
     
 
  Composition of Power Bases
I think several power bases can be required in one individual, and suggest to focus on the composition of all power bases in making an all round powerful person/leader, e.g. expert power 40%, reward power 10%, coercive power 2% etc. No ...
     
 
  What is Power? Definitions
French and Raven detail varieties of social power, but what is 'power', is it Foucault's action that requires two consenting parties - where there is the possibility of an individual decision and personal choice - or is 'power' more Weber
     
 
  About Information Power
I personally believe that information power is the most influential form of power. All other powers especially legitimate power needs to feed off of information or even expert power in order to sustain itself. Once the information stops flowin...
     
 
  Should See Power Differently...
The word "power" acts as deterrent for most of the employees to perform and leaves a negative and rebellious feeling in them. Power should be seen as a facilitating tool to influence people. And as a tool that there are people to fall back ...
     
 
  With Power Comes Responsibility!
With real power comes responsibility. You need to exercise it with an objective in mind. Power without responsibility will make you answerable one day!...
     
 
  Mind Power - Power of Mind
Every one has power of mind, of which only around 17% is active. We need to activate the unconscious mind power to energize. Ince we succeed to utilize our mind power we will become a great performer.
Any organization needs persons who ca...
     
 
  Synergistic Power is the Strongest
All power is secondary to synergistic power.
The mathematics of synergistic power is this: 1 + 1 = 11!
There is a proverb that states: 'Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.' - Proverbs 15:22....
     
 
  Bases of Social Power: What's Common?
What do these Bases of Social Power have in common?...
     
 
  Perception of Receiver
The perception of the receiving agent on how effective power can be used goes a long way in defining the social relationship....
     
 
  Desire to Have Power...
Why do people desire social power?...
     
 
  2 more Types of Power
There are two other types of power. One is derived from dependency relationship. Any dependency for anything else makes one powerful over the dependents. This may be called "Dependency Power". The other power may be termed as "Synergistic P...
     
 
  What is Referent Power? Definition and Examples
The definition for “referent power” in the summary of the basis of social power is not 100% clear when it says: "referent power is power through association with others who possess power". That could be understood as this power is attributed to the f...
     
 
  Social Power is a Reality
Just as social intelligence is a recognized intelligence, so also social power is a reality. Through social power, people are able to do many things which may not otherwise have been possible for them....
     
 
  Is Charisma a Source of Social Power?
What about personal power or call it charismatic power? Certain people can be powerful through their charisma, energy, stamina, strengt...
     
 
  Framing or Meaning Power
An additional source of power in organizations can be to establish the framework within which issues will be viewed and decided (J. Pfeffer - Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations, 1992). Leaders and elites often have su...
     
 

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Best Practices - Bases of Social Power Premium
  Assumed Power in a Void
Another type of power is that which is created in a void (Ed: ~ empty space) of leadership, that is assumed power. No one is exerting power in an area, so someone assumes that role, and the power is by consensus granted to them. There is no basis for...
     
 

Expert Tips - Bases of Social Power Premium
 

Bases of Social Power in the Context of Change Initiatives

The concept of bases of social power is very important for organizations in the context of change initiatives.
The sources of power in hie...
Usage (application): Why Acknowledging the Power of Employees is Important
 
 
 

What precisely was Legitimate Power according to French and Raven? Definition

While I appreciate and aknowledge that the definition of legitimate power, posed in this section, represents the current social paradigm, I bel...
Usage (application): Precise Definition by French and Raven
 
 
 

Mobilize the Expert Power in your Team Early On

In a short article, Bonner and Bolinger describe a surprisingly simple process to beef up the problem solving and/or decision-making capacity of your ...
Usage (application): Team Formation, Expert Power, Group Decision-making, Extroversion, Introversion
 
 
 

Seventh Source of Social Power (French & Raven)

In addition to the above mentioned bases or sources of social (organizational) power, French and Raven also distinguished connectional power as...
Usage (application): Leadership, Management, Change Management
 
 
 

Positional and Personal Bases of Power

In “The Power Theory of Leadership”, Hayden analyses the bases of social power (excluding connectional power) and reiterates that among them, some are...
Usage (application): Leadership
 
 
 

The Relationship between the Power of Leaders and Overconfidence

Fast et al. (2012) researched the relationship between power and overconfidence. In many cases it can be seen that decision making by power holders is...
Usage (application): Leadership, Power, Leadership Development, Executive Education
 
 

Resources - Bases of Social Power Premium

Power and Politics in Organizations

This presentation covers the topic of politics in organization, especially focusing on power issues. The presentation includes the following sections:...
Usage (application): Power Relations, Bases of Power, Political Behavior, Politics, Political Tactics, Organizational Politics
 

The Fatal Coaching Mistake by Managers

Managers and executives often don't realize how much influence they have over their staff, by just being their superior. And by the perception employ...
Usage (application): Coaching, Mentoring, Management, Leadership
 

Ineffective Leadership and Unethical Leadership

Presentation about Bad or Unethical Leadership that includes the following sections:
1. Webs of Significance
2. The Webs of Leadership
...
Usage (application): Leadership Types, Management, Ethics
 

Group Influences and Opinion Leadership

Presentation about Group Influences, including various related concepts such as the Social Comparison Theory and Word-of Mouth Communication. The pres...
Usage (application): Groupthink, Group Dynamics, Word of Mouth Marketing, Sales, Opinion Leadership, Convincing People, Persuation
 

Power Tactics

6 common ways to become powerul in organizations. By Renuka Kuchipudi....
Usage (application): Tactics to become powerful in organizations
 

Supervisory Power

Study by M. Afzalur Rahim tested a structural equations model of the French and Raven bases of supervisory power (coercive, reward, legitimate, expert...
Usage (application): International Differences
 
 

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Compare with the 5 Bases of Social Power: Hagberg Model of Personal Power  |  Charismatic Leadership  |  Servant-Leadership  |  Change Management Iceberg  |  Appreciative Inquiry  |  Positive Deviance  |  Change Phases  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Core Group Theory  |  Planned Behavior  |  Groupthink  |  EPIC ADVISERS  |  Leadership Styles  |  Managerial Grid  |  Situational Leadership  |  Level 5 Leadership  |  Centralization and Decentralization


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