Month: February 2012

French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power

Understanding where power comes from in the workplace.

Leadership and power are closely linked. People tend to follow those who are powerful. And because others follow, the person with power leads.

But leaders have power for different reasons. Some are powerful because they alone have the ability to give you a bonus or a raise. Others are powerful because they can fire you, or assign you tasks you don’t like. Yet, while leaders of this type have formal, official power, their teams are unlikely to be enthusiastic about their approach to leadership, if these are all they rely on.

On the more positive side, leaders may have power because they’re experts in their fields, or because their team members admire them. People with these types of power don’t necessarily have formal leadership roles, but they influence others effectively because of their skills and personal qualities. And when a leadership position opens up, they’ll probably be the first to be considered for promotion.

Do you recognize these types of power in those around you – or in yourself? and how does power influence the way you work and live your life?

Understanding Power

One of the most notable studies on power was conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959. They identified five bases of power:

  1. Legitimate – This comes from the belief that a person has the right to make demands, and expect compliance and obedience from others.
  2. Reward – This results from one person’s ability to compensate another for compliance.
  3. Expert – This is based on a person’s superior skill and knowledge.
  4. Referent – This is the result of a person’s perceived attractiveness, worthiness, and right to respect from others.
  5. Coercive – This comes from the belief that a person can punish others for noncompliance.

If you’re aware of these sources of power, you can…

  • Better understand why you’re influenced by someone, and decide whether you want to accept the base of power being used.
  • Recognize your own sources of power.
  • Build your leadership skills by using and developing your own sources of power, appropriately, and for best effect.

The most effective leaders use mainly referent and expert power. To develop your leadership abilities, learn how to build these types of power, so that you can have a positive influence on your colleagues, your team, and your organization.

The Five Bases of Power

Let’s explore French and Raven’s bases of power according to these sources.

Positional Power Sources

Legitimate Power

A president, prime minister, or monarch has power. So does a CEO, a minister, or a fire chief. People holding these formal, official positions – or job titles – typically have power. Social hierarchies, cultural norms, and organizational structure all provide the basis for legitimate power.

This type of power, however, can be unpredictable and unstable. If you lose the title or position, legitimate power can instantly disappear – since others were influenced by the position, not by you. Also, your scope of power is limited to situations that others believe you have a right to control. If the fire chief tells people to stay away from a burning building, they’ll probably listen. But if he tries to make people stay away from a street fight, people may well ignore him.

Therefore, relying on legitimate power as your only way to influence others isn’t enough. To be a leader, you need more than this – in fact, you may not need legitimate power at all.

Reward Power

People in power are often able to give out rewards. Raises, promotions, desirable assignments, training opportunities, and even simple compliments – these are all examples of rewards controlled by people “in power.” If others expect that you’ll reward them for doing what you want, there’s a high probability that they’ll do it.

The problem with this basis of power is that you may not have as much control over rewards as you need. Supervisors probably don’t have complete control over salary increases, and managers often can’t control promotions all by themselves. And even a CEO needs permission from the board of directors for some actions.

So when you use up available rewards, or the rewards don’t have enough perceived value to others, your power weakens. (One of the frustrations of using rewards is that they often need to be bigger each time if they’re to have the same motivational impact. Even then, if rewards are given frequently, people can become satiated by the reward, such that it loses its effectiveness.)

Coercive Power

This source of power is also problematic, and can be subject to abuse. What’s more, it can cause unhealthy behavior and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

Threats and punishment are common tools of coercion. Implying or threatening that someone will be fired, demoted, denied privileges, or given undesirable assignments – these are examples of using coercive power. While your position may give you the capability to coerce others, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have the will or the justification to do so. As a last resort, you may sometimes need to punish people. However, extensive use of coercive power is rarely appropriate in an organizational setting.

Clearly, relying on these forms of power alone will result in a very cold, technocratic, impoverished style of leadership. To be a true leader, you need a more robust source of power than can be supplied by a title, an ability to reward, or an ability to punish.

Personal Power Sources

Expert Power

When you have knowledge and skills that enable you to understand a situation, suggest solutions, use solid judgment, and generally outperform others, people will probably listen to you. When you demonstrate expertise, people tend to trust you and respect what you say. As a subject matter expert, your ideas will have more value, and others will look to you for leadership in that area.

What’s more, you can take your confidence, decisiveness, and reputation for rational thinking – and expand them to other subjects and issues. This is a good way to build and maintain expert power. It doesn’t require positional power, so you can use it to go beyond that. This is one of the best ways to improve your leadership skills.

Referent Power

This is sometimes thought of as charisma, charm, admiration, or appeal. Referent power comes from one person liking and respecting another, and strongly identifying with that person in some way. Celebrities have referent power, which is why they can influence everything from what people buy to whom they elect to office. In a workplace, a person with charm often makes everyone feel good, so he or she tends to have a lot of influence.

Referent power can be a big responsibility, because you don’t necessarily have to do anything to earn it. Therefore, it can be abused quite easily. Someone who is likable, but lacks integrity and honesty, may rise to power – and use that power to hurt and alienate people as well as gain personal advantage.

Relying on referent power alone is not a good strategy for a leader who wants longevity and respect. When combined with other sources of power, however, it can help you achieve great success.

Key Points

Anyone is capable of holding power and influencing others: you don’t need to have an important job title or a big office. But if you recognize the different forms of power, you can avoid being influenced by those who use the less effective types of power – and you can focus on developing expert and referent power for yourself. This will help you become an influential and positive leader.

Apply This to Your Life

  1. Go through each of the power bases, and write down when and how you’ve used that source of power in the past.
  2. Ask yourself if you used the power appropriately, consider the expected and unexpected consequences of it, and decide what you’ll do differently next time.
  3. Think about the people who have power and influence over you. What sources of power do they use? Do they use their power appropriately? Where necessary, develop a strategy to reduce someone else’s use of illegitimate power over you.
  4. When you feel powerless or overly influenced, stop and think about what you can do to regain your own power and control. You’re never without power. Make an effort to be more aware of the power you have, and use it to get what you need, confidently and effectively.

Thanks to mindtools website

Why big companies could lose it all!

In europe and in the USA we are all talking about the crisis that hits the market. What we can see is that companies try to cut on all their costs. This is obviously one off the things they should do!
On the other hand, there is a big difference in what big companies do and what sme can do!
The big companies hire laywers and tax consultants in order to reduce at the max their profit taxes.
As they do so, they are able to reduce their taxes they need to pay to an absolute minimum. Practices like tranfer pricing or using the little unknown exceptions of the law, enable them to do this.
The SME are not able to do that and just have to pay their share.
If you take this situation, and you view to it from the moon, you can ask yourself:” what is the pattern I see? ”

The partern I see, is that, willingly or unwillingly, the SME are just playing their part of the game. By paying their taxes they assume their role in the community. It is my conviction that companies, big or small, have to play their role in society. One of this roles is to pay a minimum amount of taxes on their profits, because they use the facilities of the comunity. They have a safe environment, roads are there, people aree educated, etc….

In the long run people become frustrated, because they have to pay income taxes and they can see that bifg companies are abel to legally avoid taxes on their profit. As people become more and more frustrated, they will in the long run seek for alternatives for the products comming from these big companies. One example of a major player that already understood this principle is Warren Buffet, who proposed that milionaires should pay a descent amount of taxes. Do you really think he said that because of his empathy with poorer people? Perhaps he did, but he also said that because he knows in the long run, this strategy of not paying anough taxes, will reduce the value of his shares.

When a socialist ministre in Belgium proposes that companies should at least pay a minimum amount of tax on their profits, then I am tended to say she is right, not because of the socialist thinking behind it, but just in the interest of the companies itself.

One of the main patterns on the earth right now is too much wealth has been concentrated in too less hands. These bilionaires will not consume the same amount of goods as the milions of people that would normally possess this wealth. Therefore for their own sake, they should think about a redistribution of the wealth.

I think that the middle class, that is focussed so vigorously nowadays by extra taxes and less subventions, will in the long run, protest heavily against this situation.Revolutions have always been created by the middle- classes that faced a strong reduction of their wealth in a short period. The time is right for it. Greece is ready for it, Spain and Portugal are preparing for it….I am curious to see what is going to happen in Belgium!

It is for companies and welalthy people to do nothing and continue with their behavior, but face the consequences in the long run, or change their behavior and go for a minor redistribution of the wealth in order to prevent the world to go on the revolutionary pad!

If they would consider this little amount of empathy, this little act of compassion, they would make proove of a high emotional intelligence!

The biggest secret of memories!

It was 8 years ago that I discovered that memories where actually just a construct of our brain the moment we access them rather than a video that is replayed about what actually happened in the past.

This insight came to me while I was discussing with my brother about events I remember about the time my father was still alive. Events that were for me important things that really shaped my life. In this discussion I discovered that my brother just told me that they never occured the way I described them and that as he was older at the moment of the event, his memory was more precise. It kept me wondering!

So I questioned my sisters and friends of my father and I had to agree that my memories where greatly just inventions of my brain, even though they were form me real.

Two questions popped up:

  1. Was I getting mad or does everyone suffers from this “customizing” of events?
  2. Even more interesting is whether or not these memories continue to be distorted by the “glass” we are looking through the moment we recall the event?

In the article I quote here under, you will get the necessary answers on both of the questions I just raised.

It is an article in wired and you can read it  here:

Let me take some pieces of the article that puzzled me:

…Consider the study of flashbulb memories, extremely vivid, detailed recollections. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, a team of psychologists led by William Hirst and Elizabeth Phelps surveyed several hundred subjects about their memories of that awful day. The scientists then repeated the surveys, tracking how the stories steadily decayed. At one year out, 37 percent of the details had changed. By 2004 that number was approaching 50 percent. Some changes were innocuous—the stories got tighter and the narratives more coherent—but other adjustments involved a wholesale retrofit. Some people even altered where they were when the towers fell. Over and over, the act of repeating the narrative seemed to corrupt its content. The scientists aren’t sure about this mechanism, and they have yet to analyze the data from the entire 10-year survey. But Phelps expects it to reveal that many details will be make-believe. “What’s most troubling, of course, is that these people have no idea their memories have changed this much,” she says. “The strength of the emotion makes them convinced it’s all true, even when it’s clearly not.”…

…Reconsolidation provides a mechanistic explanation for these errors. It’s why eyewitness testimony shouldn’t be trusted (even though it’s central to our justice system), why every memoir should be classified as fiction, and why it’s so disturbingly easy to implant false recollections. (The psychologistElizabeth Loftus has repeatedly demonstrated that nearly a third of subjects can be tricked into claiming a made-up memory as their own. It takes only a single exposure to a new fiction for it to be reconsolidated as fact.)…

Now we know that memories are merely a construct of our brain and NOT a kind of video that plays the moment we access the memories, we can start to think how we could use this insight! (secret)

In the above mentioned article, the scientist goes even further by using proteins the moment people access a bad memory in order to disconnect the bad feeling with the images, sounds, smells, …of the memory.

In the case of a PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) the bad feeling are the same or even heavier than the moment the event took place and this reaction does not seem to fade out. The scientist claims that by  injecting the necessary chemical products into the brain, that he can disconnect the feeling with the memory and thus he solves the PTSS. Tests have been done and results are promising.

When we know now, that memories are just an instant construct of what has been left as residue in our brain, we need to invest in this construct to behave more emotionally intelligent.
A good question to raise is then:”How does my actual state deforms the memory I am recalling?”

Knowing that your state of being is continuously filtering and deforming your memories is a great way to gain more EI!

Please fill in or just ask me some questions of other insights you could have by reading this!


The secret of trust

Corporate customers regularly ask me how they can immediately improve their customer service, customer awareness of their personnel.
In fact. They seek it in empathy, getting their message across , influence and so on. They usually overlook that customer relations are based on a simple 3 step process.
I have a dispute running with one of the major players in the market for delivery of electricity. The problem is that i just payed apparently way to much because of wrong data in their database. I am already struggling for months now to get my money back.

In the contacts I already had, people were rude, unable to understand the problem.I should amost say they just are not willing to understand the problem.

So how does this companie can gain my trust if they just don’t believe me?

The crucial element of this dispute lays in the fact that , knowing and liking precedes trusting.

Those 3 steps are the steps everyone, wether it is an individual or a company needs to go through.

First step is getting to know you.
How do i know the company now? As a company that does not listen to its customers and that hides herself behind rules and procedures.

Do i like the company?
Not at all! The people I had on the line are just rude! And when i see the advertising of the company, i just think they are lying!

Do i trust the company?
When they lie, how is it possible to trust them in the future!

Now what can this company do?

They could start to let me know them:
1.they could assigne me 1 resposable tfor my problem. He can get to know me!
2.they could enable their crm environment to regroup all info that already was gathered fir my problem and the people answering me could tell me what has already happened and what I could do in the future.
3.they could start to be friendly

If they could do that, do these little effords, i would even start to feel less agressive when I contact them. I am not sure I would start to like the company, but at least I would start to think they really bother about my problem

If they do that, I can start to trust them in the end!

So, if you want people to trust you, just consider these three steps:


Thanks to Jan Vermeiren who learned me this simple tool in the past