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Where does power come from?  What
gives an individual or a group influence over others?  We answer by
dividing the bases or sources of power into two general groupings—formal
and personal—and then breaking each of these down into more specific

Formal Power

Formal power is based on an
individual’s position in an organization.  It can come from the ability
to coerce or reward, or from formal authority.

Coercive Power

The coercive power
base depends on fear of
the negative results from failing to comply.  It rests on the
application, or the threat of application, of physical sanctions such as
the infliction of pain, frustration through restriction
of movement, or the controlling by force of basic

physiological or safety needs.  At the organizational level,
A has coercive power over
B if
A can dismiss, suspend, or demote
B, assuming
B values his or her job.  If
A can assign
B work activities

B finds unpleasant or treat
B in a manner
B finds embarrassing,
A possesses coercive power over
B. Coercive
power can also come from withholding key information.  People in an
organization who have data or knowledge others need can make those
others dependent on them.

Reward Power

The opposite of coercive power is reward power,
with which people comply because it produces positive benefits; someone
who can distribute
rewards others view as valuable will have power over them.  These
rewards can be either financial—such as controlling pay rates, raises,
and bonuses—or nonfinancial, including recognition, promotions,
interesting work assignments, friendly colleagues, and
preferred work shifts or sales territories.

Legitimate Power

In formal groups and organizations, probably the most common access to one or more of the power bases is through
legitimate power
It represents the formal authority to control and use organizational
resources based on structural position in the organization.  Legitimate
is broader than the power to coerce and reward.  Specifically, it
includes members’ acceptance of the authority of a position.  We
associate power so closely associated with the concept of hierarchy that
just drawing longer lines in an organization chart leads
people to infer the leaders are especially powerful, and when a
powerful executive is described, people tend to put the person at a
higher position when drawing an organization chart. 
When school principals, bank
presidents, or army captains speak (assuming their directives are viewed
as within the authority of their positions), teachers, tellers, and
first lieutenants listen and usually comply.

Personal Power

Many of the most competent and
productive chip designers at Intel have power, but they are not managers
and have no formal power.  What they have is
personal power,
which comes from an individual’s unique characteristics.  There are two
bases of personal power: expertise and the respect and admiration of

Expert Power Expert power
is influence wielded as a
result of expertise, special skill, or knowledge.  As jobs become more
specialized, we become increasingly dependent on experts to achieve
goals.  It is generally acknowledged that physicians
have expertise and hence expert power: Most of us follow our doctor’s
advice.  Computer specialists, tax accountants, economists, industrial
psychologists, and other specialists wield power as a result of their

Referent Power Referent power
is based on
identification with a person who has desirable resources or personal
traits.  If I like, respect, and admire you, you can exercise power over
me because I want to please you.  Referent power develops
out of admiration of another and a desire to be like that person.  It
helps explain, for instance, why celebrities are paid millions of
dollars to endorse products in commercials.  Marketing research shows
people such as LeBron James and Tom Brady have the
power to influence your choice of athletic shoes and credit cards. 
With a little practice, you and I could probably deliver as smooth a
sales pitch as these celebrities, but the buying public doesn’t identify
with you and me.  Some people who are not in formal
leadership positions nonetheless have referent power and exert
influence over others because of their charismatic dynamism, likability,
and emotional effects on us.

 From the above description of the Five Forms of Power, which bases of power are most effective?

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