French and Raven's five bases of power
In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power is divided into five separate and distinct forms. In 1965 Raven revised this model to include a sixth form by separating the informational power base as distinct from the expert power base.
As we know leadership and power are closely linked. This model shows how the different forms of power affect one's leadership and success. This idea is used often in organizational communication and throughout the workforce. "The French-Raven power forms are introduced with consideration of the level of observability and the extent to which power is dependent or independent of structural conditions. Dependency refers to the degree of internalization that occurs among persons subject to social control. Using these considerations it is possible to link personal processes to structural conditions".
Bases of power
French & Raven introduce five bases of power: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Referent, and Expert. This was followed by Raven's identification of a sixth separate and distinct base of power: Informational
This type of power is based upon the idea of coercion. The main idea behind this concept is that someone is forced to do something that he/she does not desire to do. The main goal of coercion is compliance. According to Changingminds.org "demonstrations of harm are often used to illustrate what will happen if compliance is not gained". The power of coercion has been proven to be related with punitive behavior that may be outside one's normal role expectations. However coercion has also been associated positively with generally punitive behavior and negatively associated to contingent reward behavior. This source of power can often lead to problems and in many circumstances it involves abuse. Mindtools.com states that "coercive power can cause unhealthy behavior and dissatisfaction in the workplace". These type of leaders rely on the use of threats in their leadership style. Often the threats involve saying someone will be fired or demoted.
The second type of power involves having the ability to grant another person things which that person desires or to remove or decrease things the person does not desire. present subordinates with outcomes that the subordinate regards in a positive manner. This type of power is based on the idea that we as a society are more prone to do things and to do them well when we are getting something out of it. Social exchange theorists as well as Power-Dependence theorists continue to focus on the idea of reward power. The most popular forms are offering raises, promotions, and simply compliments. The problem with this according to Mindtools.com is that "when you use up available rewards, or the rewards don't have enough perceived value to others, your power weakens. (One of the frustrations with using rewards is that they often need to be bigger each time if they're to have the same motivational impact. Even then, if rewards are given frequently, people can become dissatisfied by the reward, such that it loses its effectiveness.)"
In Group Dynamics Forsyth notes that Raven categorized rewards as either impersonal or personal. Forsyth described this distinction as: "Impersonal rewards are material resources, such as food, shelter, protection, promotion, wages and awards. Personal rewards are positive interpersonal reinforcements, such as verbal approbation, compliments, smiles, and promises of liking or acceptance." 
This power which means the ability to administer to another certain feelings of obligation or the notion of responsibility. "Rewarding and Punishing subordinates is generally seen as a legitimate part of the formal or appointed leadership role and most managerial positions in work organizations carry with them, some degree of expected reward and punishment." People traditionally obey the person with this power solely based on their role, position or title rather than the person specifically as a leader. Therefore this type of power can easily be lost and the leader does not have his position or title anymore. This power is therefore not strong enough to be one's only form of influencing/persuading.
The power of holding the ability to administer to another a sense of personal acceptance or personal approval. This type of power is strong enough that 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. Referent power is commonly seen in political and military figures, although celebrities often have this as well.
The ability to administer to another information, knowledge or expertise. ( Example: Doctors, lawyers). As a consequence of the expert power or knowledge, a leader is able to convince his subordinates to trust him. The expertise does not have to be genuine - it is the perception of expertise that provides the power base. When individuals perceive or assume that a person possesses superior skills or abilities, they award power to that person.
Informational power is based on the potential to utilize information. Providing rational arguments, using information to persuade others, using facts and manipulating information can create a power base. How information is used - sharing it with others, limiting it to key people, keeping it secret from key people, organizing it, increasing it, or even falsifying it - can create a shift in power within a group.
- Forsyth, D. R. (2010, 2006). Group Dynamics. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
- Lazarsfeld, Paul. Menzel, Herbert. 1961. On the relation between individual and collective properties. pp 214–249 in Amitai Etzioni (ed.), Complex Organizations: A Sociological Reader. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
- ChangingMinds. (2002–2009). Retrieved on May 5, 2009 from Changingminds.org
- Hinkin, T. R., & Schriesheim, C. A. Development and application of new scales to measure the bases of social power. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1989 74, 561-567.
- Gioia, D. A., & Sims, H. P. Perceptions of managerial power as a consequence of managerial behavior and reputation. Journal of Management 1983, 9, 7-26.
- Mind tools. (1995–2009). Retrieved May 5, 2009 from Mindtools.com.
- French, J. R. P., Raven, B. The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright and A. Zander. Group dynamics. New York: Harper & Row, 1959.
- Molm, Linda D. 1988. The structure and Use of Power: A Comparison of reward and Punishment Power. Social Psychology Quarterly 51:108-22.
- Bass, B. M. (1990). Handbook of leadership (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press
- Raven, B. H. Political applications of the psychology of interpersonal influence and social power. Political Psychology, 1990, 11, 493-520.