Five Sources of Power Used by a Leader

A leader is a person who can influence the behavior of others without using force. Leadership also means that the process of influencing a group to achieve goals. There are three main types of leadership style, they are autocratic, democratic and laissez faire. Besides the three main types of leadership styles, there are also five sources of power that used by a leader, they are coercive, reward, legitimate, expert and referent.

First, the autocratic style of leadership, it is also called the leader centered style. This type of style described a leader who tended to centralize authority, make unilateral decisions and limit employee participation. An autocratic leader always tells the people that what should be done, the employees have to perform the work without changing any of the orders. There are three main characteristics of autocratic leadership style, they are formal relations, centralized authorities and single man decision. Formal relations means that the leader creates a formal relationship with followers, this relationship is according to the organizational structure; Centralized authorities means leader will not share the authorities and responsibilities with others, in other words all work performance remain centralized; single man decision means the leader makes all decision by his own.

Secondly, the democratic leadership style, it is also called group centered leadership style. This type of style described a leader delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates knowledge for completion of task and depends on subordinates respect of influence. In other words, this type of leaders tend to involve employees in making decision and use feedback as an opportunity for coaching employees. There are three main characteristics of democratic leadership style, they are cooperative relations, open communication and group decision making. Cooperative relations means that the leader always work with the employees, participation in decision making gives them a concept of self-respect; Open communication means the leaders encourage the employees to communicate with them, this type of communication is a both ways communication. Employees will say out what they want and leaders will give feedback as well; Group decision making is stand for all decisions are taken by the managers with the cooperation of the subordinates.

Lastly, the laissez faire style, it also called free-rein style. This type of leadership is more a non leadership style than a leadership style, the leaders allows group members to set their own goals, to take decision and to implement those decision themselves. In other words, this type of leadership style will give a complete freedom to members, they can do the jobs in their own way, like hands off management. There are three main characteristics of laissez-faire style, they are independent decision making system, decentralization of authority and sense of responsibilities in employees. Independent decision making system means the decisions are taken by subordinates instead of leaders; Decentralization of authority means the leaders widely distribute their authority to enable everyone to work in their own way, leader only perform a function of general control; Sense of responsibilities in employees means every workers fully understand their responsibilities and make every effort to discharge it.

In today’s business world, those three main leadership styles are very common, but a successful leader will use different style to rule in different situations instead of just using one of the styles to rule in different situations. Like Apple computer, it employs a laissez faire style of leader to give employees as much freedom as possible to develop new products. Therefore, Apple is very successful to develop the IPHONE. There are also some companies that use different leadership style and become success, like the managers in WAL-Mart and Saturn, they used the democratic leadership to encourage employees to become more than just rank- and -file workers.

From the above examples, we can see that different leadership styles can also make a company become success. The main point is that, the companies should use the right leadership style in the right situation, if they use improper style in the situation, there may be a counter effect.

Besides the three styles of leadership, a leader also has five sources of power. Leaders will use these five sources of power to lead their people and influence them. The five sources of power are legitimate power, coercive power, reward power, expert power and referent power.

The first power is legitimate power, it is the power that given by the position in the organization, people will acknowledge the leader’s legitimate right, therefore they will listen to leaders and follow their orders. In companies, leaders will have various sources of power not only the legitimate, because if the employees do not follow the orders of leaders, the leader base power in the organization may diminish. Therefore, the leader will have another power called coercive power.

The second power is coercive power, this is the power that influencing people by punishing them. As mentioned above, if an employee does not follow the leader’s order, a leader may use the coercive to punish him. The coercive power does not necessarily encourage desired behavior, but it may stop or reduce undesirable behavior’s. In this coercive power, ‘punish’ do not means to hit or hurt the people, it means the leader may give some rewards to the other hardworking people, but except the one the leader want to punish. In other word, the leader may not give rewards to the one he want to punish.

Besides punishing, the leaders also have the power of reward, which is the third power of leader. The reward power means the leader’s ability to reward employees for performance, the rewards may include money, promotions, interesting work assignment etc. Beside reward the employee by money or other material rewards, the leader may reward them by other things, because employees may motivate by some other things rather than money, like job opportunities or friendly colleagues.

In addition, a leader also has an expert power, this power is influence that is based on expertise, special skills or knowledge. Expert power normally comes from education, experience and training. This power will be more important in some jobs, like teachers, they follow the subject director because they believe the director have expertise in subject matter, from this example it notice that power will follow a person who have expertise in something, therefore the expert power is one of the power that a leader need.

Finally, the referent power, this power arises because of a person’s desirable resources or personal traits, in other words, this power exists when one person want to be like or imitates someone else. For example, a new leader may copy the leadership style of an older and more experienced leader. This power also include the desire of employees want to be like the leader. This power often associated with political leaders or other well known leaders.

In conclusion, a leader will use different type of leadership style to rule in different situations, also a leader will influence people by the five sources of power, a successful will not only use one sources, he will use all five sources to influence the employee’s behavior and performance. The three main types of leadership style and the five sources of leader’s power need to be use in a proper way, if not there may be counter effect.

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