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I'm fortunate this week because I have the privilege of attending the Poynter Institute's Leadership Academy. One of the sessions thisI'm fortunate this week because I have the privilege of attending the Poynter Institute's Leadership Academy. One of the sessions led by Jill Geisler this morning asked the question, Where do we get power?

According to French and Raven, noted social psychologists, we get power from six realms, as follows: legitimate, coercive, reward, expert, referent, and information.

Legitimate power focuses on the "stripes" we wear on our uniforms, so to speak. This realm of power is symbolic of power but not leadership. People may salute the uniform, but are they saluting the person? Are they following you because they have to, or because they want to?

Same with coercive power, where you might have the power to make somebody do something, but not necessarily the leadership to. This is your ability to sanction others for failure to comply. It may get results in the short term and be effective to combat serious malfeasance, but rarely inspires individuals to follow you voluntarily in the long term. Fear is a powerful but dangerous motivator that can hurt the leader as well as the follower.

Managing in the reward realm of power is sometimes effective. We dangle the carrot in front of somebody, and they reach for it. This isn't always effective if the reward isn't tied in closely to what someone cares about. So the challenge for leaders is to understand what is of value to each follower, and when and how to deliver rewards in meaningful, sustainable and practical ways.

Expert power is your smarts. People turn to you for advice and guidance because you have specialized knowledge in a certain area.

The referent realm is the best form of power, some experts say, and it can serve people at any level of an organization. In referent power, a person has influence over others, acquired from being well liked or respected by them. The work feels better when that person is leading the team. People trust you to walk your talk. They choose to follow.

Finally, there's the information realm of power. Basically, information is a currency or a trade. Those with access to the latest, best and most information have a high degree of power. A pitfall of this is you can never underestimate the importance of information.

Ultimately, it is followers who ultimately dertermine a leader's effectiveness.

Question: What type of power do you best respond to?

Thanks for reading,

Thomas Martinez