Organizational Power Politics: Tactics in Organizational Leadership

By Gilbert W. Fairholm | Go to book overview

14
Bases of Power
The basis of power is control over needed and scarce resources. We may define resources as anything physical or psychological we own and make available to others and valuable to them in meeting their perceived needs. To be useful for power purposes, the target must see the resources as available only (or most economically) from us. In effect, power comes to us when others perceive us as having resources in some kind of monopoly ( Kipnis, Schmidt, and Wilkinson, 1980). The scarcer the commodity, the more useful it is to us to achieve our desires from those who want that commodity. The more of these scarce resources we control, the more powerful we are in the eyes of those persons in need.Any discussion of power bases must include the seminal work of French and Raven ( 1959). They distinguished five types of power: reward power, coercive power, expert power, referent power, and legitimate power. Briefly, they define these very commonly referenced bases of power as follows:
1. Reward power--based on our ability to provide benefits to the target.
2. Coercive power--based on our ability to provide punishing effects to the target for noncompliance.
3. Expert power--based on the special ability and knowledge that we have that the target would like to have or use.
4. Referent power--based on desires others have to identify favorably with us or with what we symbolize to them.
5. Legitimate power--based on the feeling others have that we have the right and authority to exert influence over their activities. This feeling results from acceptance of our grant of power by the formal organization or through historical precedence.

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