6 Types of Power In Leadership & Management

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

When we hear the word 'power' it's either we have an inclination to it if we desire to acquire such, or an aversion to it if we perceive it will be implemented to us.

Without any doubt, many have negative connotations on the word. We associate it with abuse, manipulation and control. Others think of power as another person's ability to make them do something according to what that person wants, or the ability to do something (either good or bad) to people.

Perhaps one of the many reasons why we have negative thoughts on 'power' is because humans are innately always searching for freedom. Freedom to get out of the 9-5 job, be out in a bad relationship, express our thoughts and feelings, choose who we vote, choose who we love and marry, associate ourselves with religious groups, etc. Even Adam and Eve, according to the Bible, were tempted because they wanted no limitation; hence leading to the fall of human race. It says in Genesis 3:2-5

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The purpose of this article is to encourage use of power for the betterment of an organization or business. We view the word power as a person's ability to influence other's behavior or thoughts toward accomplishment of goals and objectives. Power is an indispensable attribute of successful leaders and managers. Remember:

Without power, it will be hard to get things done.

We want to create a positive view of the term and identify ways on how we can further strengthen our power. The following are the 6 types of power.

Types of Power

Coercive or punishment

Coercive or punishment power is associated with threats if certain expectations are not met. Its primary objective is to make sure that people within the organization (or your staff) remain disciplined and compliant with certain rules and regulations, or policies and protocols.

You are using coercive power when you withhold resources and/or reprimand, transfer, demote, layoff, or dismiss an employee--hopefully, with a good cause. Remember that coercive power can easily be abused. Unjust use of this power could result to physical harm, bullying, or humiliation. Your staff may also eventually deny you their support and appreciation.

In addition, to have coercive power you must be in a position that gives you such authority, such as being the HR director, CEO, supervisor, or small business owner. Unfortunately (and speaking based from my past experiences), coercive power are also used by some people who do not have the position authority. An employee who intentionally belittles a co-worker's feelings and capabilities, or humiliates peers is an example.


Reward power is the opposite of coercive power. This is your ability to provide something for others that they want or value. It can be in the form of positive acknowledgement or recognition, salary increase, promotion, bonuses, or incentives.

Among peers, giving somebody something valuable or useful (in whatever extent and regardless of the price), is a way to build or enhance this kind of power. It is also an ideal strategy to build loyalty and devotion among your employees/ staff or colleagues.

Fair and timely provision of rewards can also aid in management of employee turnover due to poor job satisfaction. Overuse of this type of power, however, is undesirable because individuals or group who regularly receive it could perceive the relationship as transactional.

Transactional relationship means that the effort is based on the expectation of reciprocity (e.g. I will attend the meeting in the morning because there's a free doughnut and coffee). Although not totally harmful (since most relationships start with it), it's still advantageous if people will perform at their best because of commitment. Commitment is seen among engaged employees who extensively contribute to the organization or business' success.


Connection power relies upon a person's connection with an influential person or group. For an instance, we ought to seek a family member or a friend's help if we want to network our business to others whom they know would need the service/product we provide.

Another common example of using this power is when you put a personal contact's name in your list of references who you know is well-known of good standing to the person or company you are applying to.

Connection power is widely used to increase one's clientele base. If you want to increase this power, you have to make an effort to expand your network with influential individuals or groups. If you're an extrovert person, this wouldn't be much of a challenge for you because you are naturally sociable.


This type of power is acquired when a person gets appointed in a position that entails more management and leadership functions above another individual or group.

The person gets official authority to create an atmosphere of obligation and responsibility within the organization. He maybe called as "the boss." Unlike the other types, legitimate power is totally tied to the position while the others are partly tied to the person based on his/her capabilities, knowledge, motive, values, and attitude.


Referent power is based on the value of association you have to others. This is reflected when others give you personal acceptance and approval as their leader or manager.

One who possesses referent power is also viewed as a charismatic leader who makes people feel comfortable when he is around them. He also makes use of requests rather than orders to get things done.

Referent power can also be used by those who have little or no management authority. If you want to create or enhance your referent power, you must strengthen your interpersonal and interprofessional relationship with others. Effective communication skills can aid in such objective.

Related Post: 20 Effective Communication Techniques for Better Interpersonal & Interprofessional Relationships.


Possession of invaluable knowledge, expertise or experience influences a person's expert power. However, the strength is determined based on others' perception of how superior it is and if they fully or partly depend on it to carry out specific tasks within the work environment.

Expert power is not reliant on the position because in some cases, those in the lower hierarchy of the organization have more knowledge on a certain subject matter due to experience or specialized training or education.

I remember an important success concept while I was reading Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. The book mentioned the idea that you may not possess so much information to start or grow your business, but you can definitely make an alliance or hire others who possess it.

You, as a manager or leader, can NEVER achieve your desired outcomes without use of power; BUT acquisition, development and exercise of power entails social responsibility among your men.

Abuse of power can do more harm than what you could expect. Use them wisely with good intentions and careful planning to help your organization or business reach its fullest potentials.

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