The Power of Power

Power can and will bring out the best of us and the worst of us.


“With great power, comes great responsibility”



When someone earns legitimate power (power that comes from a position or role), they tend to have more success that those who are given legitimate power. But why? If someone is earning legitimate power, it tends to come from this person’s ability to lead. This person, whether they realize it or not, practices great leadership in forms of referent, expert, informational, reward and coercive power (being very careful with the last two).


Referent Power:Power that comes from others being drawn to you. Being a role model, someone another can identify with plays a major role in referent power. Your actions draw the attention of others. Referent leaders can typically lead groups of people because they build trust and relationships with the individuals in the group.

Expert Power:Power that comes from having superior knowledge of a certain area of expertise. A doctor, mechanic, professor, etc. are examples of someone with expert power. They are experts in an area in which they are the go to resource for, creating power.

Informational Power:Similar to expert power but only for a specific situation. Once you share the information, your power is gone.

Reward Power:Power that comes from the ability to give rewards when others do what you wish. Doesn’t have to be a tangible reward. Intangible rewards tend to be best.

Coercive Power:Opposite of reward, coercive power is the ability to punish when others don’t do what you wish.


Everyone in a leadership role, starts off with a little bit of given respect due to their position (let’s say a scale of 1-100, leaders start off at a 60). Their decisions at this point determine where they go on the scale, up or down. This scale is a per person scale as well. A leader might have a 75 in leadership rating with Susan but a 45 with Greg.

The reason leaders who earn their position are generally better leaders is simple. They have led before. Some people don’t possess the ability to lead and when they are thrusted into leadership, they tend to rely on the volatility of Reward and Coercive Power. Before you start thinking “most leaders don’t have the ability to punish and reward their people” think about words used as a reward or punishment.

Leaders must choose their words carefully to earn respect of their employees. The majority of rewards and punishments come from our words. Using words of affirmation goes a long way with your employees. Ask, thank and acknowledge things they do on a daily basis. When you don’t, coercive power is assumed. Whether you meant to be rude or not, it comes off that way.

If you are a leader, or if you are wanting to become more of a leader, self-awareness is a vital role. Analyze how you interact with your colleagues and find where you can improve in your role.

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