Leadership is described as, a complex multidimensional process in which an individual influences members of a group to achieve a common goal (Northouse, 2016). In order to exert influence on followers in the obtainment of a goal, a leader must first have the ability to exert influence. The ability of a leader to influence followers is a function of a leader’s power, which is the ability or potential to exert influence (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993). Influence represents the degree to which a leader affects follower attitude, opinion, and behavior (Hughes et al., 1993). Research has demonstrated that referent power contributes most to follower effectiveness because of the influence tactics typically implemented to influence followers. Leaders with referent power typically implement influence statistics that build-up followers versus tearing them down (Hughes et al., 1993). Even though the situation affects the type of power a leader should use, the use of referent power has been shown to contribute to increases in follower motivation, satisfaction, and performance (Yukl, 1989). In my experience as a follower in various situations, these research findings hold true. Leaders with referent power increase follower effectiveness through motivation, satisfaction, and performance.
The research of French and Raven (1959) determined five sources or bases of social power from which an individual could influence others. Expert power is a function of the leader, and is the amount of knowledge an individual possess compared to other group members (French & Raven, 1959). Referent power is a function of the leader and followers, and involves the strength of the relationship between leader and followers (French & Raven, 1959). Legitimate power is a function of the situation, and consists of formal authority an individual has due to an assigned organizational role (French & Raven, 1959). Reward power is a function of the leader, followers, and the situation, and is an individual’s control over desired resources, raises, promotions, tenure, etc. (French & Raven, 1959). Coercive power is a function of the leader and the situation, and involves the ability to control others through fear or loss (French & Raven, 1959).
The most promising research on influence tactics considers nine behaviors by which an individual can affect follower attitude, opinion, and behavior. Rational persuasions are tactics that use of logic and fact to influence others (Yukl, Lepsinger, & Lucia, 1992). Inspirational appeals are tactics that provoke emotion and enthusiasm (Yukl et al., 1992). Consultations are tactics that involve followers in planning (Yukl et al., 1992). Ingratiation is a tactic that attempts to put followers in a good mood (Yukl et al., 1992). Personal appeals are tactics that make appeals based on friendships (Yukl et al., 1992). Exchanges are tactics that involve the exchange of favors (Yukl et al., 1992). Coalition tactics involve using the support of followers to influence a target (Yukl et al., 1992). Pressure tactics involve the use of threats or reminders to influence (Yukl et al., 1992). Legitimizing tactics involves influence based in a position of authority (Yukl et al., 1992). Six of these nine influence tactics are commonly implemented by individuals with referent power and consider to build-up followers. Individuals with referent power apply inspirational appeals, consultations, ingratiation, personal appeals, exchanges, and coalition tactics, but typically do not implement legitimizing or pressure tactics (Hughes et al., 1993).
My first leader in an organizational situation had all five sources of power, yet only used expert, referent, and legitimate power. This leader used rational persuasion, inspirational appeals, and consultation as influence tactics. My first employer always looked to improve the team dynamic through the development of valued and trusting relationships. He always maintained a friendly working environment, expressed the importance of building homes correctly and safely. Goal accomplishment always entailed a logical description of why something was built a certain way. Followers with a developed understanding of construction principles and codes were consulted for trouble shooting when proposed plans were not possible. I was proud to be part of that team and I looked forward to working with this leader. My performance levels increased and I was willing to put forth extra effort for this leader. This leader took the time to personally understand, relate, and develop my abilities. Power was based in positive relationships and influence tactics implemented by this leader built-up followers, not tear them down or use pressure to influence. Thus my effectiveness as a follower increased through motivation, satisfaction, and performance increase.
While in the military my chief petty officers sources of power were coercive, legitimate, and expert. This chief petty officer had formal authority because of his position and had the ability to control others through fear and loss. The chief petty officer also had as a source of power, knowledge, though he did not use his expert power to influence followers. I am not stating that these sources of power are indicative of all military leaders, simple this particular chief petty officer. Pressure tactics were commonly implemented to influence. The possibility of the loss of rank and the coinciding drop in pay grade were consistently mentioned and served as reminders of the consequences of not fulfilling ones responsibilities adequately. My performance level never increased under this chief, nor was I satisfied because I did not feel personal motivation to accomplish goals. Only through the fear of reprisal were goals accomplished with this leader. If this chief petty officer attempted to develop referent power or even use his expert power, my effectiveness would have increased. Research has also demonstrated that the use of expert power contributes to follower motivation, satisfaction, and performance (Yukl, 1989).
In conclusion, the best source or base of power is referent or expert power. Leaders with referent or expert power implement influence tactics that build-up followers. The relationship prevalent in referent power contributes to follower effectiveness through follower motivation, satisfaction, and performance (Yukl, 1989). The research discussed and the supportive personal example serve as a reminder of the benefits obtained through developing leader/follower relationships, even though this process can be time consuming, followers are more effective (Hughes et al., 1993). The use of referent power can contribute to the tendency to be influenced by leader/follower relationships. This servers as an additional important reminder, a leader must not forget their responsibility to the obtainment of a goal when using referent power.
French, J. R. P., & Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power, w: The Studies on Social Power (Doctoral dissertation, ed.) D. Cartwright, Ann Arbor, Michigan).
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (1993). Power and Influence. Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin. Ch. 5. Pp. 107-131.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Yukl, G. A. (1989). Leadership in organizations (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J
Yukl, G., Lepsinger, R., & Lucia, T. (1992). Preliminary report on the development and validation of the influence behavior questionnaire. Impact of leadership, 417-427.