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Legitimate Power in Leadership: Definition & Example

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  • 0:01 Definition of Legitimate Power
  • 0:53 Advantages and…
  • 2:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Legitimacy in leadership is one of the most important concepts in leadership and management. In this lesson, you will learn what legitimate power is. You'll also see an example of how an effective leader can augment legitimate authority.

Definition of Legitimate Power

Legitimate power is power you derive from your formal position or office held in the organization's hierarchy of authority. For example, the president of a corporation has certain powers because of the office he holds in the corporation.

Like most power, legitimate power is based upon perception and reality. It is based on the reality that a person holds a particular position in an organization. It's also based on the perception of an employee that someone holding that position has authority to exert control over her. Legitimate power as a source of authority has one distinct advantage over many other sources of authority, which is that it is usually based upon some objective rule or law of the organization.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Legitimate Power

Let's go back to the example of the president of a corporation. He derives his power from the office he holds, but it is the corporation's bylaws that outline and limit the president's duties, obligations, and authority along with any specific directives given to him by the board of directors. The power of the office is usually not arbitrary and undefined, and the leader is regulated and controlled by organizational rules. This adds to the leader's legitimate authority.

Legitimate power is not without a disadvantage. While legitimate power can help ensure employee compliance with a manager's orders, it does not necessarily provide a basis for employee loyalty to either the manager or the corporation. A wise manager will seek to supplement his legitimate authority with other forms of power, such as referent power, expert power, or charismatic power, which may help build loyalty.

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