5 Types of Leadership

Whether you are an employee, that takes on the role of a subordinate (in the corporate hierarchy), or in a managerial position that oversees a number of employees, it is good to have an understanding of the different types of leadership powers. Understanding the basics will allow you to develop yourself as a leader and it puts you in the driver’s seat to make the decision of how you will lead others. There are 5 general types of leadership power; 1) Reward, 2) Coercive, 3) Legitimate, 4) Expert and 5) Referent. Each has its own purpose and if utilized properly, can be effectively used to facilitate a desired outcome by motivating employees to perform. It should be noted that in some cases a particular power manifests itself as a result of a corporate culture or in some cases an individual is just “awarded” a particular power as a result of their experience and knowledge.


The underlying motive of leadership powers is to motivate others and choosing which approach is appropriate for the occasion, based on who you are, your position, the corporate environment and how you want to convey assigning duties. Under most circumstances, the job will get done- the question is, “how do you want to delegate those responsibilities” and “what is the best way to motivate your employees.” The fact I presume you place importance on how you are perceived and that you care how your employees may feel opens the door for a whole new article, one that focuses on types of leaders; in this case a leader that possesses empathy. I feel empathy is a great leadership characteristic to possess as it keeps you human and in touch with your employees, but now I’m getting side tracked. Back to the topic at hand, the types of leadership powers are as follows (Note: click the link to view a more indepth explanation of each type of power):


Reward Power
An approach where an individual in a leadership position attempts to influence the behavior of others by offering something they may desire. For example, money or promotion.


Coercive Power
In contrast to reward power, coercive power attempts to influence behavior by implementing punishment for a particular behavior. This type of power places an emphasis on instilling fear to change behavior.


Legitimate Power
Legitimate power is a belief that the title of a position, and the individual that holds it, is entitled to exert influence on subordinates solely based on the status of their position within the organization and that subordinates have an obligation to accept it.


Expert Power
This power is generally bestowed upon a person based on their years of experience within an industry, their education, or honor’s they may have received for a particular topic.


Referent Power
Referent power occurs when an individual views their goals or objectives as similar to that of another individual.