Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Leadership Power - 2

As mentioned in the previous blog article Leadership Power - 1, there there are five documented sources of power (French & Raven, 1959; Raven & Rubin, 1976; Raven, 1992) referred to as the bases of power (Barnes, 2002). These power bases are as follows:

Resource Power: the essence of resource power is that the leader has it within them to give some sort of reward (Priest & Gass, 2005). As a rewarding leader, influence over followers comes about by offering incentives, such as fewer tasks or recognition for a job well done. This only works, however, if the followers value the rewards. It has been found that non-specific rewards to a group in general only have a short-term effect. To be effective in the long term, rewards need to be both personal and specific (Barnes, 2002).

• Expert Power: this is achieved through perceived competence. For expert power to work followers must acknowledge and respect that a leader has the necessary expertise. The more knowledge, skill and experience a leader appears to have the more likely others will follow. However, a drawback with expert power is that the person involved may only be an expert in one field and unable to incorporate or delegate others, they therefore become isolated and function solely as an expert rather than as a leader (Priest & Gass, 2005).

Legitimate Power: there are two sources of legitimate power: nominated and democratic. Nominated power implies some form of moral authority conferred in the leader. Democratic power is where a group of people has elected a leader for various possible reasons. Most people will follow a leader if they have been given a moral right or legal responsibility to make certain decisions on the followers’ behalf. (Barnes, 2002).

• Referent Power: this is the least obvious source but the most voluntarily accepted of the five. When a leader is admired, identified with or valued by group members it is likely that the group will agree with, support and follow the leader. It could be said a leader has referent power if the group members gauge or mirror their personal actions by those of the leader (Priest & Gass, 2005).

• Coercive Power: this form of power involves the threat of punishment and usually follows the failure of resource power to influence people. A coercive leader would influence group members by threatening them with negative incentives such as decreased responsibility or carrying more weight on a trip. Ethically, this power has no part in outdoor education, since forcing people to act ignores the philosophy of challenge through choice and can potentially destroy the adventure experience or create barrier to learning (Barnes, 2002; Priest & Gass, 2005).

It might be seen that an outdoor leadership practitioner, particularly on expeditions, should have expert power as an absolute minimum. In addition to this, a leader would normally be expected to have legitimate power simply because they are in the nominated role. However, a person may need to call upon their referent power if there are personalities in the group that need winning over or reassuring. Most outdoor practitioners consider the use of coercive power morally apprehensible in terms of the negative impact on a learner’s progress. Finally, resource power is the ultimate trump card where, if things are not working out or going according to intended learning outcomes, the leader always has the power to abandon or change the trip or experience.

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