SHU Professor Craig Barkacs on 10 Sources of Power and How Anyone Can Use Them


In his latest blog post for Psychology today, Business law professor Craig Barkacs explained the difference between power and influence as conventionally defined in business and organizational psychology, and argued that although the words “power and influence Have ambivalent connotations, these strengths can be used in a positive way. In his latest blog post he says:

I also reviewed Robert Cialdini’s Seven Principles of Influence and, in what I hoped was a moving example of using those principles for good, I shared a letter that a former student had written to her sick mother to convince her to undergo the treatment she needed.

This time, we’ll take a look at the principles of power, which are much more complex than many people realize. And while it may seem counterintuitive at first, we’ll see how power isn’t just something that belongs to, and is used by, those who fit the conventional picture of powerful people – business leaders, high-ranking politicians and military officers, to name but a few examples. It is also something that can be exercised, very effectively indeed, by ordinary people who occupy basic positions in organizations.

The 10 sources of energy

In a classic 1959 study, two social psychologists named John French and Bertram Raven originally identified five different sources of power: legitimate, reward, coercive, expert, and referent. Six years later, Raven added a sixth, informative. Over the years, based on research done by others, I have been able to identify four additional sources of power that I add to the original six of French and Raven when I teach my classes on power and power. influence in organizational policy. I have developed a mnemonic device to help my students remember this:

LoRCER, INC. Frowed Agenda

The “LoRCER, INC.” part (minus the lowercase “o”) is an acronym, and the words “box” and “agenda” represent the sources of power to which they refer, framing power and agenda. Let’s take a closer look at what each power source means.

  • Legitimate power: This is the one that is most obvious. It is the power bestowed by the rank, status and title of an individual or group within an organization or society. Having legitimate power usually makes both reward power and coercive power possible (see below), although that’s not the only way, as I’ll explain shortly.
  • Reward Power: The ability to grant various types of benefits to others, such as hiring, promoting, and increasing raises. This is usually made possible by legitimate power, but the difference is in how they work. With legitimate power, status and title alone require people to comply. With the power of reward, people want to comply more out of desire for the benefits and rewards implicitly promised to comply (eg, promotions and raises).
  • Coercive power: Basically the opposite of the power of reward. It is the ability to punish in one way or another, such as reprimands, suspensions, demotions and ultimately dismissal. As with reward power, it usually comes with legitimate power, and people will bow out of fear of punishment.
  • Expert power: Power that comes from having specialized knowledge in a valued field. People will conform out of a belief in the expertise of the power holder as well as a desire to benefit from that expertise and / or fear of missing out if they don’t. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the sudden transition to online learning, one person who suddenly became more important than everyone else here at the University of San Diego’s School of Business was a member of the name of Brett Beyers. Mr. Beyers, you see, is the official tech guru of our department.
  • Reference power: It is a power that comes from charisma, sympathy and attractiveness (not necessarily physical), regardless of rank and status. People conform to this kind of power because of the admiration they have for the referent power holder.

The above is an excerpt written by USD Professor of Business Law Craig Barkacs and published in Psychology today, for which he is an official blogger.

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