There are 6 basic types of social power that influence others…which type are you?
If you have ever wondered why some people seem to be more effective at influencing the opinions and behaviors of others, consider the social power possessed by the “influencer” and the role-identity of the “followers”.
Social power can be thought of as simply reasons why one person can get others to do what he wants to. There are six basic types of social power:
1. Reward power is when the holder of the power has the potential to dole out either material or social rewards. Attention, affection and sex fall into this category. So do bonuses, salary and gifts.
2. Coercive power exists when others comply to avoid any type of punishment. This can be a time out, public humiliation (gossip), social discord, a verbal or physical reprimand, financial penalties, jail, etc.
3. Legitimate power is based on the notion of “it just is”. Whereby, someone responds to someone’s request simply because they are a designated as an authority figure such as “teacher”, “leader”, “parent”, or “boss”. Followers respond to their requests just because they are “supposed to”.
4. Referent power is often combined with Legitimate Power when you like or admirer your boss or teacher. The power to influence comes with being admired and respected, when the person wants to be like you or wants to be held in high regard in return.
5. Expert power is when someone has superior skills or training so followers comply with their requests because they assume they know more and can lead others towards better decisions. This can obviously apply to situations at the office or when consulting with advisers, such as doctors, lawyers or accountants, but it also comes into play in more subtle situations. For example, we may defer to someone’s lead simply because they are more familiar with the place, people or situations than we are. This occurs in social setting where new comers often look for experienced members to “show them the ropes”, thus temporarily one person is deemed the expert and assumes that role.
6. Information Power is when someone posses a specific piece information that we see as valuable. Thus we follow their requests in order to get them to share the information we are looking to obtain.
Role identity is basically how people want to be seen in a given situation. This translates into what motivates them. For example, a 30 year-old, single female attending a social engagement who wants to be seen as sexy, attractive and articulate to men would respond positively to the reward power of a compliment from a viable suitor since it would validate her role-identity. So in order for the compliment to be powerful in its ability to influence it must be seen as valuable enough by the followers to warrant the required behavior.
Persuading others is not always easy, in management or leadership situations if you are liked (referent) and seen as a skilled /knowledgeable (expert) you will have the power to influence the performance and opinions of others since referent power combined with expert power in leadership roles tend to be the most effective.
Please comment here on the blog what types of power you think work best for you and it what situations. 🙂