3. Contingency Theories
The realization that there is no one correct type of leader led to theories that the best leadership style depends on the situation. These theories try to predict which style is best in which circumstance. For instance, when you need to make quick decisions, which style is best? When you need the full support of your team, is there a more effective way to lead? Should a leader be more people-oriented or task-oriented? These are all questions that contingency leadership theories try to address. The answer to all these questions requires much more information than I am ready to devote, but are worthy of a leader/manager’s study. Armed with this knowledge, a leader/manager
could adopt a more effective leadership style.
4. Power and Influence Theories
Power and influence theories of leadership take an entirely different approach. These are based on the different ways that leaders use power and influence to accomplish goals done, and they look at the leadership styles that emerge as a result.
In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram
Raven in 1959, there are five bases of power: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Referent, and Expert. Leadership and power are closely linked. This idea shows how the different forms of power affect one's leadership and success.
a. Coercive Power
This power is based upon coercion; forcing someone to do something that they do not desire to do. The main goal is compliance. Coercion uses punitive behavior that may be outside one's normal role expectations. Coercion can often lead to problems and in many circumstances, involves abuse. It can cause unhealthy behavior and dissatisfaction. These types of leaders rely on the use of
threats, often threating to fire or demote someone.
Leader/managers apply coercion with explicit demands to achieve compliance, such as establishing task completion deadlines with negative consequences if not met. I refer to this as negative motivation. This tends to trigger resentment from associates, especially if the pressure becomes severe. When associates perceive that tasks are not goal related but originate from their leader’s attempt to please superiors for personal recognition, resentment can quickly undermine an organization’s morale, cohesion, and quality of performance. Coercion is good when the stakes are high, time is short, and previous attempts at achieving commitment have not been successful.
b. Reward Power
Reward power is the ability to grant another person things that person desires or to remove or decrease things the person does not desire. Leaders present associates with outcomes that the associates regard as positive. This power is based on the idea that associates are more prone to do
things when they are rewarded. The most popular rewards are raises, bonuses, promotions, and simply compliments. The problem with this is that when the available rewards gone or the rewards do not have enough perceived value, the power weakens. Often, the reward needs to be bigger each time to have the same motivational impact. Even then, the reward can lose its effectiveness if people are become satisfied by the reward.
c. Legitimate Power
This power administers to an associate’s feelings of obligation or responsibility. People traditionally obey the person with this power solely based on their position or title rather than the person specifically as a leader. Therefore, this type of power can easily be lost when the leader does not have his position or title anymore. This power is therefore not strong enough to be the leader’s
only form of motivating associates. This power can also corrupt organizations when people blindly obey their leaders without consideration for the consequences-“I was just following orders.”
d. Referent Power
This power administers to associates’ sense of personal acceptance or personal approval. The power-holder is often looked up to as a role model. This power is often regarded as admiration, or charm. The responsibility involved is heavy and the power easily lost, but when combined with other forms of power it can be very useful. Commitment generally produces longer lasting and broader effects by changing attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. For example, when a leader builds responsibility among
associates, they will likely demonstrate more initiative, personal involvement, and creativity. Commitment grows from an individual’s desire to gain a sense of control and develop self-worth by contributing to the organization. Referent power is commonly seen in political and military figures, although celebrities often have this as well.
e. Expert Power
This is the power of knowledge or expertise (doctors, lawyers, etc.). Because of expertise or knowledge, a leader is able to convince associates to trust him. Using personal power is probably the best alternative. Leader/managers should work on building expert powerbased on expertise and experience, because this is the most legitimate source of personal power.