For starters, let’s just ignore the fact that I had this song stuck in my head the entire time that I was writing this.
We took an interesting turn in our discussions of the Tubbs Model of Small Group Interaction this week. Last week, we were discussing the six thinking hats and how the wearer of the blue hat is essentially the leader of the group because they not only watch over the activity of the five other hat wearers, they also are skilled at knowing when to take off and put on different hats in order to fit the situational needs of those types of thinking. This week, we are continuing with looking at the concept of leadership and how it is earned and appointed. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at the five types of power discovered by John French and Bertram Raven in 1959 and how those can create leadership within a group.
This type of power refers to how much control a person has over giving other people what they want. This is normally thought of as the position held by managers and executives in companies, because they hold the ability to give you promotions, bonuses and other accolades and financial gains. This could potentially also be the role of your parents, because they have much control over the objects that you get when you are younger. Teachers and professors also fall under this category because they can give grades, praise and opportunities for extra credit to their students. Reward Power is a mix of earned leadership and appointed leadership, because normally the people with this power are already in those positions to begin with, so the idea of giving people rewards comes with the job; it’s also appointed leadership, because when someone who comes into a group or team with the ability to give the group incentives to work under them, people tend to subconsciously, and sometimes consciously hand them the leadership role.
Also known as the “Scrooge Power”, this type of power is the polar opposite of Reward Power. All of the jobs I mentioned in the previous paragraph can also have Coercive Power because just as easily can they give people the accolades and financial opportunities they want, they can also take away what those people currently have and potentially even more. Bosses can fire their employees, teachers can fail their students and even parents can reprimand and punish their children in any number of ways. Coercive Power can be used as a way to make sure that certain standards are followed in whatever environment you’re in whether school, work or home, so that everything runs as peacefully as possible for those in charge. Like Reward Power, this is also a mixed bag of appointed and earned leadership. This kind of power can be abused, however, as bringing it into a group setting can make it where people aren’t working because they want to, but because they don’t want to have any negative effects of slacking off befall them. Coercive Power can be a good thing, but if used incorrectly, it can also be pretty toxic to the growth of any team or group.
Sometimes also called “Position Power”, this is the power that we give to people because of their role in society. Judges, executives, professors, presidents, and the lists goes on, because there are so many job titles in the world that we give power to and as a society, most people tend to accept that those roles have certain powers to exercise over us. This is primarily an appointed leadership related power, because people don’t necessarily have to earn the leadership to be put in these roles, and because of that, people with Legitimate Power are sometimes rebelled against by those who don’t find the person with power to be the right person for the job. Depending on the Relevant Background Factors within a group, people with Legitimate Power who enter into a group or team may or may not be given the respect of the position that they hold, because others may not believe that position, or that person, to be worthy of it’s power.
This kind of power also goes by the name “Personal Power” and the full extent of it’s power is questionable at best. Anyone with Referent Power has it because someone else wants them to like them. There’s not much I can say on this, because it’s a pretty vague power to begin with. The leadership of people with this power is completely appointed, because no one would have Referent Power if they didn’t have individuals who wanted them in some form or fashion. People in groups and teams with this power can have any amount of positive and negative effects on the group, just because of how variable the power type is.
Lastly, there is Expert Power, which essentially boils down to the concept of giving power to those who know
more about a certain field than we do. For example, would you try to argue with a surgeon about how to do open heart surgery? Anyone who has the knowledge of how to do things that not everyone else can, generally garner a little more respect when asked to deal with issues in their field of study. People with Expert Power have earned leadership, because they went through the effort and time to be as knowledgeable as they are, and their word means more than other people’s when their expertise is brought into necessity. In a group setting, Expert Power only has as much power as it is needed for the sake of accomplishing the task at hand.
Leadership is a fickle thing and power even more so. Learning how to use and not abuse leadership and power is a key factor in being able to harmoniously work in groups. *Insert numerous inspirational quotes about being a good leader here.*