French And Raven's Five Forms Of Power Explained: Power In Leadership (2023)

French and Raven’s five forms of power are essential to understanding effective leadership. By recognizing and utilizing these power dynamics, leaders can navigate any situation and influence their followers.

In this article, we’ll break down each of the five forms of power and provide practical examples of how they can be used in a leadership context.

Whether you’re a new or experienced leader, understanding French and Raven’s five forms of power is a key component of success.

Different forms of power will affect the person’s leadership methods and the way they get things done by people.

The source of their power plays a key role in determining what kind of leaders they are. Do you seek inspiration from them due to their behavior towards you, their integrity or simply because they can use their power to get things done for you? To get answers to all these questions, it is crucial to get insight into French and raven’s five forms of power theory.

Leading social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven came up with this phenomenon almost fifty years back.

They studied that if a leader doesn’t get power from his title and yet he has the power to influence you or get things done from you, then what’s the source of that power? Do we accept them as our leaders, and do we accept their powers?

To know the phenomenon better, you need to understand the what’s power base and the five forms of power.

Table of Contents

French And Raven’s Five Forms Of Power Meaning

As per John French and Bertram Raven, there are five forms of power. But before that, there is also a concept called bases of power.

When you accept someone being your leader, there should be something mesmerizing you. You are ready to accept that person’s authority, which might be due to the power base.

(Video) French and Raven's Bases of Power

When you get influenced by someone’s power, that might be because of the power base. With this concept, a person can create different power bases so that there can be effective leadership. The base of power means, where does the power come from or what can be its source or cause?

What Are The Power Bases?

The power bases can be categorized into two groups. The first group is the positional power sources. The second group is the personal power sources. Let us analyze the two groups based on French and Raven’s theory.

Positional power

The positional power regarding an organization means the power due to some ranking or due to a title.

This type of power is legitimate. It comes because the person or the leader has a particular ranking. It is formal power. One form of power is legitimate power. With legitimate power comes reward power. The leader who possesses legitimate power also has reward power.

Positional power is not stable by nature. It does not stay forever. When the person loses his title, the person also loses power.

Positional power is mainly because of the title’s influence. When the leader loses legitimate power, he will also lose reward power. Under the positional power category, you will also find power bases like coercive power. The person who uses this power base uses force or abuse and gets the task done or gets what he wants or influences you.

So, in the positional section, you can see three bases: legitimate power, reward power and coercive power. After six years of this theory, one more base was added to the positional concept. This base included informational power.

Personal power

Under this category of the personal power base, you can see two power bases. These are expert and referent.

Here, the leader has a power that stays forever and has nothing to do with the position or title. Under personal power, you come across two power bases: the expert power base and the referent power base.

Now that you know about these two categories and the names of the five forms of power, you should also know about each of the power forms in detail.

French And Raven’s Five Forms Of Power Explained

In 1959, French and Raven described the five forms of power and here’s a detailed description of the same.

1. Legitimate power

A legitimate power base comes from a positional category. The power is due to the position of the person. Business hierarchy models, organizational structures and social structures create legitimate power.

The best example here is the CEO of the company. He has legitimate power and can influence the team or the employees to work in a certain way and achieve the targets. The fire department head has the positional power, which makes the staff follow his instructions.

(Video) French and Raven's Forms of Power

However, legitimate power is associated with the title and is temporary. The person loses power when there’s no job title left.

2. Reward power

People who hold certain positions also have the power to reward. Appraisals, increments and job-related incentives are generally approved by those with the power of a job title. If a person needs mentoring or if someone deserves a raise, all these decisions come from the top authority of the company. When this person loses legitimate power, he will not generate reward power too.

However, in many companies, you might have seen that the salary appraisals might be in the hands of top authority. You get influenced by your immediate supervisor because, hierarchy-wise, he is your boss. But he may need the reward power.

3. Coercive power

Coercive power is when the person gets something done forcefully. It can create a tense atmosphere, job dissatisfaction, poor relations etc.

When a person uses force to get the work done and says that if it’s not done, the other person will be fired, this is coercion.

The person may have a position which may allow him to follow coercion. But this way is not a justifiable one. The employee or the follower will also do the work under coercion, sometimes due to fear of demotion or removal.

4. Expert power

The expert power base falls in the personal power category, wherein the individual does not need any title to implement a robust work culture.

The individual has a good leadership style which is enough to influence the employees or the followers. The person who is an expert and a specialist influences many other people.

This form of power is not connected to any position. It is stable and remains with the person until he inspires people around him. A person who has a hunger for power should work towards enhancing expert power. This type of power can be attained by expanding skills, working on something vital to the company or society or developing leadership qualities.

5. Referent power

In referent power, the person is not directly connected with the individual having referent power. But he likes the person and follows that individual due to the qualities or specialities. The best example here is people liking a celebrity.

What celebrities do and what they wear, there seems to be a great influence on common people. The person with referent power has to be responsible enough because, most of the time, people tend to do things like him. This form of power comes with a big responsibility.

Apart from the above 5, one more power base was added later in the personal power category. This was called informational power. This form of power relates to the sensitive and vital information that a person may have.

With Informational power, a person can either help others or manipulate things, Like, if someone has access to the company’s accounts and uses this power to manipulate things and get things done the way he wants.

(Video) French and Raven's Five Forms of Power

The Extract Of The Above Discussion

With the above discussion, it is clear that if someone wants to execute power, then the best ways are to earn it or to develop it. You will have legitimate power if you join an office with a certain job title.

There’s one more way, and that is, you develop your skills and gain expertise in a specific subject matter. With this action, you can be a leader. Despite not having a job title, you can still influence people around you positively.

Practical Examples Of French And Raven’s Five Forms Of Power

Here are some practical examples of French and Raven’s five forms of power:

Coercive Power: This power is based on the ability to punish or withhold rewards. For example, a manager who threatens to fire an employee for poor performance is using coercive power.

Reward Power: This power is based on the ability to provide rewards or benefits. For example, a manager who offers a bonus to an employee for meeting a sales target is using reward power.

Legitimate Power: This power is based on a person’s position or title. For example, a CEO has legitimate power because of their position within the organization.

Expert Power: This power is based on a person’s knowledge or expertise in a specific area. For example, a professor who is a renowned expert in their field has expert power over their students.

Referent Power: This power is based on a person’s charisma, likability, or perceived attractiveness. For example, a celebrity who endorses a product has referent power because people like and trust them.

Effective leaders are able to recognize and utilize each of these forms of power in different situations.

For example, a leader might use reward power to motivate employees to achieve a specific goal, but use expert power to persuade team members to adopt a new approach to a problem.

By understanding and using French and Raven’s five forms of power, leaders can navigate power dynamics and influence their followers to achieve success.


Many leadership theories prevail, and organizations follow them to enhance employee productivity. Five forms of power is one leadership theory developed by social psychologists French and Raven.

Power and leadership have a deep connection. Hence, to develop the right leadership style or influence a person, one needs to know about the different forms of power. There are five forms of power from the workplace point of view. Power bases can be categorized into positional power and personal power.

(Video) MBA 101 Leadership, Power

Out of all the five power bases, expert power is stable, not attached to any title or position and can influence people positively. If at all you wish to attain power then try to develop yourself with excellent leadership qualities.

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French And Raven's Five Forms Of Power Explained: Power In Leadership (1)

Carol T. Mahaffey

Carol T. Mahaffey is a certified American Author And a creator of Theleaderboy. Carol is a Self-Taught Marketer with 10+ Years of Experience. She brings her decade of experience to her current role, where she is dedicated to writing books, blogs, and articles, inspiring the world on how to become a better Leader.


What are the five types of power according to French and Raven? ›

The five power dynamics (or bases of power) identified by French and Raven (1959) include referent, expert, legitimate, reward, and coercive. Coercive power is the only power base with negative influence.

What are French and Raven's five forms of power understanding where power comes from? ›

French and Raven's Forms of Power describes six sources of leadership power: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Expert, Referent and Informational. Each form of power, when used to influence someone, has a different impact on relationships and outcomes, some better than others.

What are the five 5 types of power explain each type? ›

The 5 Types of Power in Leadership are Coercive power, expert power, legitimate power, referent power, and reward power. Later on, they added one more power called informational power to the list. Authority is the right to command and extract obedience from others.

What are the types of power and their meaning? ›

Lesson Summary. As you can see, there are many different types of personal power. Personal power is the ability to control the environment around you. This can be accomplished through the five different types of power: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power.

What is French and Raven theory of social power? ›

French and Raven defined social power as the potential for influence (a change in the belief, attitude or behavior of a someone who is the target of influence. As we know leadership and power are closely linked. This model shows how the different forms of power affect one's leadership and success.

What is the role of power in leadership? ›

Leadership power is the influence that leaders have over their followers. It persuades others to support the leader's efforts and do as they ask. Influence is essential to leadership because it helps them establish relationships with their teams and maintain authority, which is the right to exercise power.

What is power in leadership? ›

Leadership Power. Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others with or without resistance by using a variety of tactics to push or prompt action. Power is the ability to get things done. People with power are able to influence others behavior to achieve a goal or objective.

Which types of power are best for a leader to use? ›

Referent Power. No matter what type of leader you are, referent power is one of the most valuable kinds of power. It's all about how you build and develop relationships. "This power depends on personal traits and values, such as honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness," Lipkin notes.

What is an example of personal power in leadership? ›

In professional settings, someone who is dependable, assertive, and well-organized will likely be taken more seriously. These are examples of personal power in practice.

What is the Big 5 in leadership? ›

The natural leader defined in Big Five terms is resilient (N-); energetic, outgoing and persuasive (E+); visionary (O+); competitive (A-); and dedicated to a goal (C+).

What are the five 5 fundamentals of leadership? ›

What are the fundamentals of leadership?
  • Communication. Leaders would be hard-pressed to accomplish anything worthwhile without an effective way to communicate across the entire organization. ...
  • Visionary and strategic thinking. ...
  • Empowerment. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Self-awareness.
Dec 9, 2021

How do leaders gain power? ›

The #1 way to gain power is to give it all away.

Effective leaders gain more power by giving it all away. They recognize that by empowering their team members to exercise judgment and make decisions, the team members take care of the customers and the business takes care of itself.

What are the six types of power identified by French and Raven? ›

French and Raven identified five bases of power: coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, and referent. To this was later added a sixth: information power.

What is the simplest definition of power? ›

We can define power as the rate of doing work, it is the work done in unit time. The SI unit of power is Watt (W) which is joules per second (J/s). Sometimes the power of motor vehicles and other machines is given in terms of Horsepower (hp), which is approximately equal to 745.7 watts.

What are the sources of power explain your answer? ›

Leaders have a number of sources of power, including legitimate power, referent power, expert power, reward power, coercive power, and informational power. All of these sources of power can be used in combination, and people often have access to more than one of them.

Which one of the following is not a type of power according to French and Raven? ›

The correct option is: B) Authority

There are five bases of power introduced by French and Raven which are: Coercive power. Reward power.

What is the social view of power? ›

Social power is a form of power that is found in society and within politics. While physical power relies upon strength to force another person to act, social power is found within the rules of society and laws of the land. It rarely uses one-on-one conflicts to force others to act in ways they normally would not.

What is the difference between power and leadership? ›

Power vs Leadership

1- Power is a force that comes from on high, (from the hierarchy) and goes toward the bottom (top- down), from the strong to the weak. Leadership, on the other hand, comes from lower down (in the hierarchy) and goes towards the top: one is 'made' or recognized a leader by one's group.

How should leaders manage their power? ›

Here are some strategies for leveraging power in leadership effectively:
  1. Make relationships a priority. ...
  2. Don't overplay your personal agenda. ...
  3. Maximize your communication network. ...
  4. Be generous with information. ...
  5. Make the most of your position. ...
  6. Develop your brand of charisma. ...
  7. Be the expert.

Which type of power is most effective and why? ›

Closely related to Informational Power, Expert Power is when an individual possesses in-depth information, knowledge, or expertise in the area that they are responsible for. This type of power is often the most effective type of power.

What is a good example of power? ›

Legitimate power comes from a role a person plays. In the workplace, a supervisor may possess legitimate power due to the authority of their position. Other examples of titles with legitimate power are a police chief, president or CFO.

What is a example of power? ›

Example Sentences

After the emperor died, power passed to his eldest son. the peaceful transfer of power to the newly elected president The president was removed from power in the recent uprising. The new government has taken power. The rebels rose to power several years ago.

What does it mean to own your power? ›

Owning your power allows you to create and maintain strong relationships both in and out of the workplace. It allows you to stand up for yourself, negotiate for yourself, demonstrate your strength while admitting when you're wrong.

What are the bases of power by French and Raven 1965? ›

French and Raven identified five bases of power: coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, and referent.

What are the 5 sources of power based on superior subordinate relationship? ›

And still others gain influence through an ability to grant access to important resources.
  • Legitimate or Positional Power. ...
  • Expert Power Derived from Possessing Knowledge. ...
  • Referent Power Derived from Interpersonal Relationships. ...
  • Reward Power and Ability to Influence Allocation of Incentives.

What are the types of teacher power? ›

They are expert, referent, legitimate, reward, and coercive power. Understanding how these forms of social power influence the classroom environment is important for teachers as they seek to support and help their students. Expert power is the knowledge and experience a teacher brings with them into the classroom.

What are the types of power in international relations? ›

There are three main types of power in international relations. These are hard power, soft power, and smart power, which is a combination of both hard and soft power.

What are the French and Raven bases of power social work? ›

Social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven identify six bases of power, namely coercive, reward, legitimate, referent, expert and informational power.

What are the bases of power in meaning? ›

Bases of power refer to the methods that managers and leaders utilize to influence their employees. When examining bases of power, the concept of authority must also be considered. These two are interconnected attributes tied to the behavior of superiors over subordinates.

How does power influence leadership? ›

Power leadership uses sources of power instead of influence to motivate others to act. With power leadership, you can influence how others act, but it won't necessarily change what people believe and how committed they are. Power leadership also tends to centralize power and decision-making to one person.

What are the sources of power of a leader? ›

There are many sources of power in leadership such as position, personal attributes, knowledge, and expertise. There are also many categories and types of power. Some of these include formal power, position power, legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, expert power, and personal power.

How many types of power are there? ›

There are two types of electrical power such as: DC power - It is defined as the product of voltage and current and is produced by DC sources like generators, batteries, fuel cells, etc. AC power - A flow of charge that exhibits a periodic change in direction is called AC power.

What is an example of referent power? ›

Referent power comes from being trusted and respected. We can gain referent power when others trust what we do and respect us for how we handle situations. For example, the Human Resource Associate who is known for ensuring employees are treated fairly and coming to the rescue of those who are not.

What are the 5 main types of teaching styles? ›

5 different teaching styles to use today
  • Lecturer.
  • Demonstrator.
  • Hybrid.
  • Facilitator.
  • Delegator.
Jun 29, 2022

What are the elements of power? ›

Elements of national power
  • Natural: Geography. Resources. Population.
  • Social: Economic. Political. Military. Psychological (National morale) Informational.

How do you balance power functions? ›

States can pursue a policy of balance of power in two ways: by increasing their own power, as when engaging in an armaments race or in the competitive acquisition of territory; or by adding to their own power that of other states, as when embarking upon a policy of alliances.

What is the concept of power? ›

"Power is defined as a possibility to influence others." The use of power has evolved from centuries. Gaining prestige, honor and reputation is one of the central motives for gaining power in human nature.


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