Taking Another Look at Where Power Comes From
This is a repost of a third in a series of posts on power, facilitation and collaborative process that former IISC Senior Associate Linda Guinee wrote back in 2010. Last week we reposted Linda’s piece “What is Power Anyway?,” which followed a new post by a few of us on power and meetings. Enjoy!
More about power and group processes. There have been a mountain of books written about the “bases of power” and the “types of power”. I’ve done some work to try to boil it down – and find thinking about this very useful in moving forward the conversation about how to address power issues in group processes.
In the 1950s, French and Raven put out a proposal about five “bases” of power, which others added to. Bases of power are what gives a person or group power. French and Raven came up with these five:
- Reward Power – power that comes from the ability to reward the other party for complying
- Coercive Power – power that comes from the ability to punish the other party if they do not comply
- Legitimate or Normative Power – power that comes from accepted group, community or societal norms or values which are generally viewed as “legitimate”
- Referent Power – power that comes from being identified with a person or group (for example, so and so gains power by being friends with X or being a member of Y group)
- Expert Power – power that comes from the perception that the person or group has knowledge
Morton Deutsch later added a sixth:
- Ecological Power – power that comes from being able to control one’s social or physical environmental in such a way that the modified environment induces a desired behavior or prevents an undesired behavior.