Power and Authority


Power and Authority

Power - exists when one person can get another person to do something they may otherwise not want to do

Authority - form of power which gives someone the right to give commands which others accept as legitimate

If employees believe their manager lacks authority:

- Lack of consistency

- Workload isn't balanced properly

- Poor customer service

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Coercive Power

This type of power is based on the subordinates fear of the leader.

Maintained by use of threats or punishment:

  • Management use this power through frequent use of reprimands, hostile attitude and threatening subordinates with loss of status or jobs.
  • Aggressive language or a threatening manner - linked to autocratic leadership


  • Subordinates become fearful of a manager who exerts coercive power and fear of demotion or dismissal ensures that jobs are completed
  • Employees don't perform as well under this type of management since they aren't encouraged to develop their skills which leads to high labour turnover


  • This power doesn't encourage two-way communication and employees are not encouraged to provide feedback or ideas. Communication is one-way e.g. orders down from the top.
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Reward Power

Ability to provide subordinates with power, most employees will comply with  a request from a manager because it will result in additional promotion or recognition.

Linked with democratic leadership and many staff will respond positively to the exercise of reward power

Managers find that employees respond positively and are willing to offer new ideas and suggestions as well as taking on additional responsibilities.

Used when staff are required to show initiative or where staff do not work under close supervision.

However, can be very expensive for the business. If rewards are "over-used" they may lose their impact. Employees may become used to rewards and demotivated if they are not received.

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Expert Power

This is when there is possession of particular expertise, skills and knowledge that can give rise to this type of power.

Leaders have the power to make decisions as subordinates are likely to recognise the leaders' expertise and be willing to follow suggestions

An employee who is not that senior may have expert power e.g. a personal assistant to a senior person or an experienced colleague


Can be difficulty in replacing a leader with expert power, especially if their expertise is rare and they can become an invaluable to the business

It may lead to some leaders being unwilling to share their expertise for fear of losing power

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Legitimate (position) and Referent Power

Derives from a persons' position or job in an organisation. This type of power increases the more you move up the organisation

Some managers will exercise this type of power more than others e.g. "I'm the boss around here!"

For example, the armed forces & the police will use this power through the various levels of management.

It gives employees power because of their status and role and not because of their talents and skills. In organisations today many people are used to accepting them.

Referent Power - Derives from a leader's charisma

People are more likely to follow the lead of someone they like, value and admire. They are respected and often possess strong inter-personal skills.

Can create problems if people follow the leader with referent power e.g. this type of leader can gain considerable power even though they may not be particularly talented in the role.

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