Career Development

10 Types of Power in Leadership

May 26, 2021

A leader's influence can determine how well common goals are met in the workplace. This power is a fundamental tool used by great leaders. The type of power used varies from person to person based on environment, personality and skill. In this article, we define what leadership power is and the 10 types of power in leadership.

What is leadership power?

Leadership power is the influence that leaders have over their followers. It persuades others to support their efforts and do as they ask. Influence is essential to leadership because leaders cannot exist without it. It is also a key component of power and authority.

Power and authority are often used interchangeably but their meanings have nuanced differences. Power is the influence someone has over another. It refers to the ability to accomplish a goal with the help of others. Authority is the right to exercise that influence.

Supervisors have authority because of their position in the workplace. They possess a type of power because of this, but a staff member can also have power if they are well-liked by colleagues. The staff member has no authority but colleagues are willing to follow them because of their relationship.

10 types of power in leadership

A leader is one who inspires others to act. Good leaders possess a type of power that encourages self-improvement and team building and promotes a positive work culture. The types of power are how people are influenced. The 10 common types of power in leadership are:

  1. Legitimate
  2. Coercive
  3. Referent
  4. Charisma
  5. Expert
  6. Information
  7. Reward
  8. Moral
  9. Connection
  10. Founder

1. Legitimate

Legitimate power is the power someone holds as the result of a hierarchy in an organization. They can influence employees because their position dictates it. This is similar to military rankings. All lower-ranking members must abide by the direction of their commanding officer and other high-ranking officials. This structure helps to organize large businesses and ensure everyone is following the same goals.

You gain legitimate power in an organization by showing you have what it takes to be a supervisor, executive or partner. Working as a supervisor lets potential employers know you can handle the responsibility. Use legitimate power together with other types of power to be a successful leader.

2. Coercive

Coercive power is the power someone holds through threat or force. In an organization, a higher-ranking manager can force a lower-ranking employee to act in a way they don't want to with a threat of termination or other disciplinary action. This type of power can be used in cases of insubordinate employees but when relied upon as a common tool, it can breed resentment.

Coercion can occur between colleagues or even from an employee to a manager. In this case, the leveraging factor is the threat of exposing unwanted information or something similar.

3. Referent

Referent power is the power that role models hold. It occurs when a leader has strong interpersonal skills and others follow them because of a deep admiration. For example, an employee tries to solve a conflict and refers to what his mentor would do and follows that model to resolve the issue.

This power is not one leader can bestow on themselves. The admiring party gives the leader the designation of role model.

Develop your interpersonal skills by taking an interest in others. Listen when they speak and respond appropriately. Well-liked people inspire loyalty and a willingness to work together on common goals.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

4. Charisma

Charisma is the nature of attractiveness or charm that compels others to follow someone. Charismatic power inspires positivity and joyful feelings in others. The persuasive nature of this power is reliant on the engaging quality of the leader's personality. This power does not have to exist with any explicit skills or refined leadership qualities. People are naturally drawn to the charisma of others. When used as a tool in conjunction with well-rounded leadership, it can inspire great change.

Charisma is a natural byproduct of an outgoing personality. It works best when felt honestly. Learn to be charismatic by developing confidence in your unique abilities. If you feel more comfortable connecting with people one-on-one rather than in large groups, this may be your way of displaying charm. Embrace your strengths and use them to your advantage.

5. Expert

Expert power exists in an organization when one member possesses a set of skills others don't have. This leads others to defer to the expert. Employees typically assume managers or executives possess some skill or knowledge the others don't. Anyone in the organization can hold expertise power.

To use expert power in your career, pursue expertise in your field. When you demonstrate a high level of competence, people may begin to defer to you or follow your advice because of your experience.

6. Information

Power based on information lasts as long as the information is not known to others. This puts the person in possession of the information in a unique position to leverage this power however they choose.

While having information power can be a one-time occurrence, you can become a person who is known to have key information on the industry, products or market. By developing a curiosity for important news and innovations in your field, you may become a valued resource to your colleagues.

7. Reward

Gifts can give someone a strong influence on the behavior of others. Reward power exists when a manager has the power to offer incentives to employees who perform well. For example, offering a raise to employees with the highest sales numbers signifies reward power.

As a workplace leader, reward power works best when the reward is something relevant to the employees. Having something they desire can encourage boosts in productivity. The incentives must also be attainable to keep morale high.

Related: 4 Steps for Creating an Employee Rewards Program

8. Moral

A leader with moral power inspires action based on their beliefs and behavior. Moral leaders live by a principle that others can see and decide to follow. Employees are inspired by these leaders because the leader builds trust through their ethics. They become a role model for setting personal standards.

To use moral power in your career, establish a personal mission statement and philosophy to live by. When you make this statement known to others and consistently live by your principles, they come to trust your example.

Related: Integrity: Definition and Examples

9. Connection

Leaders have connection power when their alliance with influential people is admired and desired by others. The connection gives people the sense that the leader possesses or has access to the same power that the influential person has. This is beneficial in cases where the leader has connections to possible business investors.

Building relationships establish a framework for connection power. Take advantage of networking opportunities to make lasting friendships throughout your career.

Related: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

10. Founder

Founder power exists when a leader is the founder of an organization, ideal or movement. Others defer to this person's power because there is a perception of having a deeper knowledge than the others through experience.

Becoming an entrepreneur of a successful business gives you founder power even after you have stepped down from running day-to-day activities.

Related: 6 Leadership Theories for Career Growth

Qualities of an effective leader

Leadership is a combination of qualities that inspire others to achieve a common goal. Certain qualities of leadership occur more readily in some people than in others. Through patience and goal setting, anyone can learn to be an effective leader. Here are some common qualities of a successful leader:


Honesty in a leader builds trust and credibility among employees. People are more willing to work with someone they believe can deliver promised results. An honest leader also inspires a culture of taking responsibility for your work and actions.


Integrity is a consistent upholding of personal principles. It is important in leadership because it inspires trust and reference in others.


An effective leader must have confidence in their own actions to inspire others to act in harmony. Confidence gives the impression that a leader knows what they are doing and are capable of solving the current problem.


The ability to see things from the perspective of others is an essential quality of leadership. With this core skill, the leader can suggest changes that help team members improve on their personal strengths.

Enthusiasm and inspiration

Like charisma, enthusiasm stimulates people into action. It inspires positive feelings that help employees push through challenges and discover innovative solutions. An enthusiastic leader keeps motivation high and inspires confidence.


Leaders demonstrate accountability when they consistently deliver on their promises, take responsibility for their actions and live up to a high-performance standard. These standards can be the result of a personal philosophy or an organizational goal.


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