Power: which of the 5 types?

Power: which of the 5 types?

Do you have power? How so? And what power do you have to deal with? Power has always been a powerful theme in human interest: intriguing,
disgusting, and appealing to the various many. French & Raven have pinpointed the grounds of power more than 50 years ago. Here is a slightly
adjusted version of the 5 types of power.

1. Legitimate power

You can also call this power of position or function. Power is “attached” to the role someone has. We obey people because they are CEO, a cop, or a door bouncer (and we would not if they were out of this position).


2. Coercive power

Also power of repression. We obey people in fear of a threat – physical, mental, or social/societal. A very common form in the worlds of work and of love. It can be very subtle: it may suffice to only implicitly hint at the threat.


3. Reward power

The opposite of the previous. We obey people as to obtain a reward. Again, very common in work and love. And equally subtle: only the suggestion of a promotion, positive assessment, extra love, etc. may do the trick.

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4. Control power

Originally expert power (later complemented by information power). We obey people who control or “sit on” something we want, e.g. expertise, information, access to something, or an interesting network.

5. Personality power

Originally reference power. We obey people with a strong appeal (around e.g. inspiration, vision, big activities, interesting lives). This triggers a will to follow. Think of celebrities, politicians, or big business guys.

Martin Luther King


So, where does this leave you? Which boxes of power do you “tick”, and how solid & desirable is that particular ground of power? Conversely, with which types of power do you have to deal, and can you balance them with yours? Explore and enhance the more desirable types!

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