What are the types of power in leadership?

Leadership and its influence on people can be experienced in both professional and personal settings. Whether it’s times of change, conflict or crisis, leaders are ones who can unite people together under a common vision. 

The power of leadership can be reflected in professional and personal settings. In this article, we’ll discuss the 6 different forms of power, as first described by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in the 1960s. Even after over a half century, these bases of powers still apply.

Some of the power bases come naturally to people, while others may need development. By understanding the different power dynamics, it can help you and your organization see what powers are currently in place and distinguish whether the existing power bases are effective for your team.

The Two Categories of Power

There are two categories we can divide the 6 different powers: Formal and Personal.

Power of Leadership: Formal (also known as positional power)

Formal leaders are those who have been appointed to a position of authority within an organization. These formal or positional powers are possible and can be exercised because of the official role the person has been given.

The Power of Leadership: Personal

Leaders with strong personal powers are those who have the ability to influence others without having any formal authority. Personal leadership is about taking charge of your own circumstances and inspiring others to do the same. You do not need to be in a position of authority to be considered a leader. Personal leaders often have a more direct and immediate impact on the people around them. They can inspire those around them to be better people and achieve great things. They often do this through their personal charisma and ability to motivate others.

Formal and Personal Leadership Both Matter

Both types of leadership are important to organizational success and enable you to make change on a large scale. As such, all organizations should put emphasis on developing both formal and personal leaders to achieve organizational change. 

Understanding Different Forms of Power Structures 

If you want to be an effective leader, it's important to understand the different types of power at your disposal and how to use them effectively. Formal authority should be used when necessary, but don't forget about the persuasive force of personal power as well.

Personal Forms of Power 

Referent Power

When it comes to leadership, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The type of power a leader wields is dictated by the situation at hand. In some cases, formal authority is the most effective way to assert control and get things done. But in other situations, personal power is a more persuasive force.

Referent power is a form of personal power that arises from a leader's ability to inspire respect and admiration. When people look up to a leader and want to emulate them, they are said to have referent power over them. This type of power is often seen in celebrities and political figures who have a strong public image.

While referent power can be useful in some situations, it's not always the most effective form of leadership. In many cases, people with referent power are more concerned with maintaining their image than with actually getting things done. As a result, they may avoid making tough decisions or delegating tasks to others.

Expert Power

Expert power is the influence that a person has over others due to their expertise or knowledge in a particular area. This type of power comes from one's skills, experience, and training. Those with expert power are often consulted for their advice and opinions on matters within their area of expertise.

Positional Forms of Power

Legitimate Power

Legitimate power includes people like Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs, a police chief. The power is derived from their position of power or title inside of an organization. Without holding strong other power bases, those with only legitimate powers can lose their influence on people immediately if they lose their position or title because people only cared on their title rather than them as a person. Legitimate power is limited by others believing the you have the right to control or influence a situation. An example would a CEO telling you to follow the business strategy -you would listen to that. But if they said to go jog every morning, you might ignore that instruction.

Reward Power

Reward power is just that, the ability to give people rewards or recognition. Praise and recognition are powerful motivators. When you see someone doing something well, be sure to let them know. A simple "thank you" can go a long way. And when you really want to motivate someone, offer a more formal reward, such as a bonus, a raise, or a promotion.

Coercive Power

Coercive power in terms of leadership is the belief that you can rule by force. Specifically, coercive power focuses on the ability to get others to do what you want or do not want them to do through punishing them when they do not meet standard.

Informational Power 

It has been said that effective leaders empower others. Informational power can be viewed as somewhat of the opposite of this belief. Leaders that actively embrace informational power often focus on controlling information within their organization. By controlling information, you can often control people’s decision-making abilities.  

What are the Benefits?

Leadership is one of the most important skills that you can possess in your personal and professional life. Whether you are leading a team at work or managing a household, your ability to effectively communicate and motivate others is essential to achieving success. This is true whether you work in construction or serve as a human resource associate. Both formal and personal leadership is critical when dealing with supply-chain disruptions, implementing process improvement software, or you are leading others through a crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic.  

When looking at organizational transformation and seeking to improve company culture, there are many benefits of being a strong leader, both for yourself and for those around you. When you are able to lead others effectively, you can help them reach their full potential and achieve great things. 

If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, there are many resources available to help you get started. You can read books on leadership, take classes, or attend workshops. However, the best way to learn is by doing. The more experience you have leading others, the better leader you will become.

What are the Drawbacks?

The formal power of leadership comes with a number of potential drawbacks. The first is the risk of abuse. When leaders have formal power, they have the ability to coerce or force people to do things against their will. This can lead to all sorts of problems, ranging from simple micromanagement to full-blown tyrannical behavior. It is important to remember that formal and personal leadership are intertwined. Good formal leaders find ways to actively empower employees to embrace leadership without formality. 

Formal power can also stifle creativity and innovation. When people are afraid of punishment or retribution, they are less likely to take risks or experiment with new ideas. This can lead to a stagnant and uninspired workforce. It is important to remember that when you are in positions of formal leadership, such as a project manager, you need to be aware of the company culture that you are reinforcing. 

Leading Teams Through Transformation

Leading teams through transformation can be a daunting task, but it is one that is essential for the success of any organization. The ability to effectively lead teams through change is a key attribute of any great leader.

There are a few key things that all effective leaders do when leading their team through transformation:

  1. They clearly articulate the vision and goals of the organization to their team.
  2. They create a sense of urgency around the need for change.
  3. They develop a plan of action that will help the team achieve the desired results.
  4. They provide ongoing support and guidance to their team throughout the process.
  5. They celebrate successes along the way.

If you want to be an effective leader during times of change, make sure you keep these things in mind. Your team will thank you for it!

Digital Transformation and Change

Digital transformation is key in today's business climate. Popular companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon have disrupted traditional businesses by leveraging digital technologies to create new customer value propositions. Digital transformation involves the use of digital technologies to create new or different processes, products, or services that can deliver significant value to customers and other stakeholders.

Using tools, such as those provided by Blaze, can help your organization. There are no-code, low-code, and high-code options available to support any leader. 

Leadership is critical to successful digital transformation. Leaders need to have a clear vision of how digital technology can be leveraged to create value for their organizations. They also need to be able to mobilize people and resources behind that vision. And finally, they need to be able to continuously adapt their organizations as the digital landscape evolves.

The formal leader of an organization has the primary responsibility for driving digital transformation. But it is important to note that leadership is not just about position or title. Everyone in an organization can play a role in leading digital transformation. In fact, successful digital transformations often require a team of leaders working together across functions and levels within an organization.

If you are a formal leader charged with driving digital transformation in your organization, the most important thing you can do is define your vision. Articulate a clear and inspiring vision for how digital technology can be leveraged to create value for your organization. This should be based on a deep understanding of your customers and other stakeholders, as well as an analysis of the competitive landscape.

Empowering Employees

Leadership is not a title or a position; it is an approach to life and work. When we think about leadership, we often think about people in positions of power and authority. But leadership is not just for those in formal positions of power. We all have the opportunity to lead in our lives, whether at home, at work, or in our communities.

When we think about empowering employees, we often think about giving them the authority to make decisions or take action. But empowering employees is more than just giving them power; it is also about supporting them and helping them to grow as individuals.

Empowering employees starts with trust. Trusting employees means that you believe in their ability to do their job well and to make good decisions. It also means that you are willing to give them the freedom to experiment and try new things.

Once you have established trust, you can start to empower your employees by giving them more responsibility and authority. This may mean delegating tasks or projects, or it may mean giving them the resources they need to succeed. Whatever you do, be sure to give employees clear expectations and support them as they take on new challenges.

Empowering employees can have a positive impact on your business. Empowered employees are more engaged and motivated, which can lead to increased productivity and profitability. So if you want to empower your employees, start by building trust and giving them the responsibility and resources they need to succeed!

Creating a Leadership Roadmap

A leadership roadmap is a plan that details the steps necessary to achieve success in leadership roles. It includes both formal and personal development goals and sets forth a path for achieving them.

Formal development goals might include things like completing a leadership development program or earning a degree in business administration. Personal development goals might include things like reading books on leadership or attending seminars on effective communication.

The key to creating a successful leadership roadmap is to start with your end goal in mind. What do you hope to accomplish as a leader? Once you know your destination, you can map out the steps necessary to get there.

Leadership is not a destination but a journey. By taking the time to develop a roadmap for your journey, you can set yourself up for success.


Whether you are in a formal leadership position or simply want to be a leader for those around you, it is important to understand the importance of leadership. Leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate others, which can lead to positive changes in both individuals and organizations. If you want to make a difference in your own life or in the world around you, consider actively building your leadership skills. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve great things for yourself and others. 

To use powerful software tools and apps to improve your business operations, get a demo of Blaze.