Power is "the
possibility of imposing ones will upon the behavior of other persons".
- from Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society page 323
It is important to classify different kinds of power so that students of
leadership and management can be instructed in the appropriate use of power.
This is the ability to reward team members who accept the will of the leader or manager. It may
take the form of praise, cash, a corner office, a title, control over schedule and priorities,
recommendations, choice of the next assignment, promotion, or any number of things that
encourage the desired behavior from a team member.
This is the opposite of compensatory power but should be considered different than discipline
because it is personal where discipline may not be. The team member can learn from discipline;
condescension power does not provide an opportunity for team member improvement by learning.
Condescension power threatens team members with something emotionally painful or even
physically painful so that individuals will submit to the will of the leader or manager.
This is the power that comes from knowledge that is appropriate for the task at hand. For
example, a physician has expert power over patients and allied health professionals owing to the
years and years of education, training, and practice that he or she has obtained. This same
physician may not have expert power in other areas, such as hospital administration or
management. Individuals with expert power may need to adjust their decision making styles
in situations where they do not have expertise, but are expected to lead.
This is acceptance of the will of the leader or manager that is based on social conditioning. Most
societies teach children the notion of rank which is a formal designation of who has power over
who by ones position in a hierarchy. Military professionals are specially trained to accept position
power which is necessary in battle.
The leader or manager with referent power is the one that others refer to owing to goodwill and
mutual respect. It comes from a successful track record over a period of time involving common
interests between individuals.
Authors have found it useful to define other forms of power. For more information see
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