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In this lesson, we will define and explore five different types of personal power, including reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, and referent power, and look at examples that go along with each type of personal power.

What Is Personal Power?

Power is the ability to influence or change an outcome. Personal power is a source of influence and authority a person has over his or her followers. Where does a person get this power from? In short, the power is determined by his or her followers. There are different types of power a person can hold. Let’s explore some of these different types.

Reward Power

The first type of power we’ll discuss is reward power. This is the type of power that is created when a person offers rewards to his or her followers for completing tasks.

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An example could be if an employee hits her sales goal, she’ll win a prize or receive recognition at the company meeting. Reward power needs followers to believe they will be rewarded.

Coercive Power

The second type of power we’ll discuss is coercive power. This type of power is the opposite of reward power. When a person possesses this type of power they will impose a penalty if their followers do not act as required. An example could be if an employee does not make his sales goals, he’ll have to work every Saturday for the rest of the month.

Coercive power needs followers to believe they will be punished.

Legitimate Power

Another type is legitimate power. This is the type of power that is created because of a person’s job title. Followers believe this person has a right to instruct them because of the position he or she holds. A few examples of people who have legitimate power are a CEO of a company and a police officer.

Legitimate power needs followers to believe a person has the right to tell them what to do.

Expert Power

The fourth type of power is expert power. This is the type of power that is created when the followers believe a person has expert knowledge. Examples of people who have expert power are doctors and lawyers. Followers feel these people have the ‘expert’ knowledge to complete tasks.

Expert power needs followers to believe the person is an expert.

Referent Power

The last type of power we’ll discuss is referent power. This is the type of power created when a person possesses qualities the followers admire and would like to possess.

An example of a person with referent power is Mother Teresa. Referent power needs followers to believe the person has desirable qualities.

Lesson Summary

As you can see, there are many different types of personal power. Personal power is the ability to control the environment around you. This can be accomplished through the five different types of power: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power. Some types of power may be more beneficial in certain situations than others, as the examples have demonstrated.

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