What is Referent Power? Definition and Examples

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Tom Milus

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 follower by virtue of his or her attachment to a powerful person.
French and Raven's definition, however, focuses on the leader having power by virtue of the follower wanting to emulate the leader (wanting to be be like him).
It may well be that the follower hopes to gain personal power through the association with a powerful leader, but that is just one of the possibilities for the follower's attraction to the leader.
Great teachers, successful political leaders, certain military leaders, movie stars, rock stars etc all have some amount of referent power. They have this power because the followers essentially want to be like them, have what they have, or hope for some other sense of personal satisfaction as a result of the relationship.
Consequently, the follower adopts thinking and behavior styles etc in an attempt to be like the leader. The leader becomes a point of reference.

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