The Three Powers of Leadership

Touching more on the topic of leadership, here’s something insightful and interesting that might help us understand the dynamics of the co-relation between leaders and followers that we can observe around us.

True Leadership influencesAccording to a best-seller book- Principle-Centred Leadership– by Stephen R. Covey, there are three basic levels of power and influence that leadership have over followers: coercive, utility, and legitimate powers.

Here is a brief summary of what these three powers are:

1. Coercive power is a manifestation of the psychology of fear on the part of the leadership/leader and the frightened masses. The former, due to lack of confidence in itself and in the people, unleashes psychological terror and when necessary the ‘big stick.’

The follower follows out of fear that something adverse might happen to him, if he does not. In this case, there is a fear that something bad might happen to him or something good might be taken away if he does not comply. The follower obeys the leader in order to avoid facing adverse consequences.

The follower’s loyalty is superficial and he just moves along for the sake of tagging along. Most of what he does is simply to ensure that his interest and comfort are not affected.

2. Utility power is based on a relationship where there are some benefits that will accure to the follower if he follows.

Both the leader and the follower has some interest to protect. The follower has something the leader wants such as time, energy, personal resources, talent and support. The leader too has something the follower wants such as information, money, promotions, inclusion, security and opportunity.

These followers believe that the leader can and will do something for them if they fulfill part of their bargain. Much of what happens in most organisations today are fueled by this utility power.

3. Legitimate power is based on trust and respect for the people. Unlike the two powers discussed above, legitimate power does not depend on fear and material reward, but rather because the follower tends to believe in the leader and what they are trying to achieve.

As Covey succinctly puts it, leaders with legitimate power “are trusted, respected, honored… And they are followed because others want to follow them, want to believe in them and their cause, want to do what the leader wants. This is not blind faith, mindless obedience, or robotic servitude; this is knowledgeable, whole-hearted, uninhabited commitment.”

3 thoughts on “The Three Powers of Leadership

  1. “this is knowledgeable, whole-hearted, uninhabited commitment.”

    All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. Bk of Acts4

  2. Well, that depends…
    For those people behave like animals, Coercive power is the best. Give them more law, more laws, more laws – that will drain out their grace. Since they love law, give them more.
    Let those who are in grace be free in God’s grace. Let those are in law be yoked in the law.
    What you focus, expand….
    Those people who think of law and problem, let them have plenty of law and worry.
    Those people who believe in the God’grace, let them have everything that is manifest upon His grace.

  3. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mat15:8-9

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