Sources of Power by French and Raven

Five Sources of power for the leaders: Creating the right influence on followers


The intricate link between power and leadership can be understood from the fact that people tend to follow those who hold the reins. People appreciate power and everyone wants to have it. Everyone wants to exercise control over the others and influence them. However, the story of power and influence is not as simple because not all are able to obtain it. Several times power also means value. Not only powerful people are valued, but if a thing has value it can be a source of power. If a specific person or organization holds power then it can be for several different reasons. The reason because government has the power is for it can govern the nation and influence the welfare of the people. This power comes from the people and is used to serve the people. Why are leaders powerful and how do they influence people? Do the sources of power vary for the leaders? Yes, they do and research has verified it. French and Raven have highlighted five different sources of power. John French and Bertram Raven conducted their research study in the year 1959 to study the sources from which power arises.


Legitimate power: Legitimate power arises when people believe that someone has the formal right to make demands and expect compliance and obedience. Prime ministers, presidents, and officers have legitimate power and even organizational structure can be a source of legitimate power. However, such power can also be unstable as well as unpredictable. In case of the government and its officials power is seen as authority.

Reward power: Rewards are also used to control and influence people. So, the ability to reward others can prove to be a source of power. People look up to you to reward them and act as per your expectations. Inside the companies people look for opportunities of growth, financial rewards, and even opportunities for training. However, the amount of power that arises from rewards can depend upon the amount of control that a person has on the rewards he can distribute.

Coercive power:   This is not a very popular source of power or simply but the people using this source might be abusing it actually. The problem with its use is that it may cause your followers to be frustrated and resentful. For example, there are managers inside several offices that try to coerce performance from their employees.

Expert power: People are also trusted and respected for their expertise. Such people who can analyse situations, present solutions and help make great judgments. So, these people hold some important value as influencers. This ability to influence or control others using one’s abilities and skills is known as expert power and the best thing is that it is a positive form of power which can also have a long lasting appeal and impact.

Referent power: It is another important source of power that can have a positive impact. It arises from a person’s perceived worth and attractiveness or respect from others. People like to identify with such people. Best examples are the celebrities whom we like so much that we let them influence our selection of brands.

A sixth source of power was added to the list by the researchers later which is informational power.

Informational power: Information is power in the age of data. If you have control over the right information that people might need, or you can influence the control of classified reports and similar other valuable information or data, you might have some power.