I often hear in discussions on leadership a question asked of another “So what kind of Leader are you?”

Populist leadership appears to having its moment in politics with “I’m just like you and it’s us against them”. But (certainly since the demise of workers unions) there is less of that in organisations.

More than 60 years ago, French & Raven defined leadership from the perspective of its power – how it gets those they lead to do what needs to be done. So when you lead, which of the following are you getting your leadership power from?

Coercive Power

‘Do this or you will be penalised’

Power that is based on fear.  A person with Coercive power can make things difficult for people. Employees working under Coercive managers may be fearful of not getting the job done.

Reward Power

‘Do this and you will be rewarded’

Compliance achieved based on the ability to distribute rewards that others view as valuable.  Able to give special benefits or rewards to people.

Legitimate Power

‘Do this because I am your Leader’

The power a person receives as a result of their position in the formal hierarchy of an organisation. The person sees it as their right, considering their position and your job responsibilities, to expect you to comply with legitimate requests.

Expert Power

‘Do this because I have knowledge’

Influence based on special skills or knowledge , through which this person earns respect. Their power is based on access to solutions.

Referent Power

‘Do this for me

Influence based on possession by an individual of desirable qualities or personal traits. You like the person and enjoy doing work for him or her.

Informational Power

‘Do this for Access’

Influence based on access to information that otherwise would not be available. She or he knows ‘stuff’.

All the above are technically legitimate.  You may have used them all at one time or another. You will also recognise that using Coercive Power doesn’t change minds,  Legitimate Power only lasts as long as your label, Reward Power means you need to constantly play Santa Claus and Informational relies on you controlling chanles of communication – not easy in the social media age.

So, what Leadership challenges but encourages, motivates and inspires and taps into the best of those you lead?

Expert Power means you have solutions. You are subject matter expert who can analyse, identify and communicate a problem and be a source of solutions.

Combine this with Referent Power where you are liked and respected, are interested in people and have integrity and honesty that influences and persuades – then you have a potent combination that attracts followers.