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Personal Power: Referent and Expert Power

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  • 0:06 Managerial Power
  • 0:38 Personal Power
  • 1:10 Referent Power
  • 2:14 Expert Power
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

Managers require different types of power to make things happen in their organizations. This lesson focuses on the second type of power, known as personal power. There are two types of personal power that this lesson will explain, including expert and referent.

Managerial Power

You may recall that power can be defined as a person's ability to influence others. Effective managers know how to use their power to influence the behavior of organizational members. A manager obtains his or her power from both the organization (positional power) and from themselves (personal power). The key to successful management lies in using a combination of positional power and personal power. This lesson focuses on the second type of power: personal power.

Personal Power

Personal power is independent from the position a manager holds in an organization and rests solely in the individual. Things such as a manager's personality and special knowledge make personal power a useful resource for managers to use when trying to influence subordinates. Subordinates become committed to their mangers that hold personal power. There are two main bases of personal power, which include referent power and expert power.

Referent Power

Referent power is the result of subordinate respect and adoration for the manager and is seen when an employee seeks to identify with the manager with whom they admire. Referent power is commonly seen in charismatic leaders who are able to invoke a passion for followership due to the leader's magnetic personality. Subordinates are willing to follow their manager's requests simply because of the manner in which they deal with and treat subordinates. For example, Kelly thinks that Jack is a great manager who is easy to talk to and has always done a good job of treating her like an equal. When Jack asks Kelly to work overtime, she agrees without hesitation because she has seen Jack stay late on numerous occasions and she wants to do what she thinks will please Jack.

Followership is not based on rewards or punishment; rather, it is based on subordinates' belief that the manager is a good leader because of a charismatic and caring leadership style.

Expert Power

Expert power allows a manager to influence the behaviors of subordinates through their special knowledge, experience or skills relating to the work the subordinates must perform. Being an expert makes a bold statement to employees that the manager knows what they are doing and can provide the necessary direction for how the subordinates can be successful themselves. Essentially, the manager holds expert power by knowing or understanding how to do job-related tasks that the subordinates need to know.

For example, now that Kelly has successfully penetrated her market, she wants to take her sales to the next level by branching into a new market. However, Kelly has never worked in this market before and understands that it is vastly different from her usual one. Fortunately for Kelly, this was Jack's market before he was promoted to a manager, and he has some insider knowledge about how to be a successful sales person in that market. Because of Jack's expert power, Kelly will listen to all of the suggestions that Jack offers her, even those that contradict Kelly's typical sales strategies.

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