What Is Referent Power? The Secret to Being a Better Leader

Referent power is a unique type of personal power. It is built on respectful interpersonal relationships rather than manipulation or coercion. Today’s organizations focus more on building relationships and collaborating across teams. As such, referent power is becoming an increasingly essential leadership tool.

I learned about the five forms of power identified by psychologists John R. in an organizational behavior class. P. French and Bertram Raven in 1959. Referent power was the form of power that (in my opinion and for my purposes) was most closely associated with effective leadership. Referent power is characterized as “influence over others, acquired through being liked or respected by them,” in brief. I wanted something more concrete to help my future leaders know what they were aiming for and to provide guidance for what referent power looks like in the real world, even though that definition is generally helpful for understanding what referent power is.

4. You demonstrate strong interpersonal skills. Those with referent power have personable qualities. You are thought of as kind and trustworthy. Or maybe you have a winning sense of humor. While there have been referent power leaders with bad moral behavior—Adolf Hitler is a well-known example—I only want good referent power leaders within my company, not just “successful” ones. In sum, you have good moral behavior. ).

There was some discussion internally about whether charisma is essential to referent power. The emphasis shouldn’t, in my opinion, be on enhancing the charisma of referent power leaders, however much it may contribute. It’s either there or it’s not, so someone who wants to be a leader would do better to focus on other things, like how their peers feel about working for and with them.

People typically enjoy working for someone because they believe the boss is fair and gives them the opportunity to share in the success. People want to feel respected, like they are learning and growing when they are working with someone, whether it be in a collaborative setting or through regular interactions. They also want to feel like their contributions are valued.

Although we do not yet know what that critical mass is, applying an evaluation mechanism will be the next step in improving our framework. Perhaps it will take the form of defining “green-yellow-red” ranges and awarding points to specific elements in order to achieve an overall score. There are many ways to accomplish this, and we have only just begun to explore the most abstract philosophical ones. While some factors will carry more weight or be seen as essential, others will carry less weight or be seen as optional. Some character traits, like humor, may only earn you bonus points.

Referent Power

Why is referent power important?

Referent power not only improves working relationships between employees and managers, but it also has a number of other advantages. With referent power, you’re more likely to experience:

What is referent power?

People with referent power have admirable social skills that win others’ respect. When their actions and personalities make others feel at ease and inspired in their roles, charismatic leaders frequently acquire referent power in the workplace. When a leader has referent power, their subordinates and other workers typically put in more effort because they value their leader’s endorsement.

How to gain and use referent power

Here are some pointers for using or acquiring referent power at work:

1. Lead by example

As a leader, its important to lead by example. Ensure that the values you uphold align with those you demand of your team. People may think your actions are inconsistent with your expectations of them if, for instance, you stress the value of finishing a project on time but spend some of your workday on personal matters.

2. Recognize others

Make sure to acknowledge and appreciate achievements at work, no matter how small. Recognize the team members who go above and beyond. Praise for their effort, optimism, or success in front of others makes them feel valued. In addition, it helps foster trust and admiration.

3. Get to know your team

By getting to know your team on a personal level, you can demonstrate your concern for them and increase their sense of connection to you as a person. Inquire about the weekend, interests, and families of your coworkers, group, or employees.

4. Invest in your team

It’s crucial for a leader to promote the development of their team. Make contact with them and arrange one-on-one meetings to discuss their difficulties and objectives. Putting money into their success demonstrates your concern and support for them.

5. Listen to your team

Be fully present and pay attention to what others are saying when you’re conversing with them. It demonstrates your concern for them that you are paying close attention to what they are saying. People are more likely to approach you when they need someone to talk to when you listen to them carefully. It also helps encourage trust and respect.

6. Have an open mind

It’s crucial for leaders to be receptive to fresh perspectives. Others are more likely to approach you in the future with problems or feedback if you freely accept this information now. You can demonstrate that you genuinely care about someone’s opinion by actively listening to their ideas.

7. Be honest

Keep your team informed and current on important issues no matter what you do. If youre unaware of certain situations or circumstances, be honest. If you make a mistake, own up to it and fix the problem.

Examples of referent power

There are numerous opportunities for people to acquire referent power at work based on their behavior and overall personality Here are a few fictitious instances of referent power at work:


Who has the referent power?

A manager who is regarded as a role model and is admired and respected by his staff is an example of referent power in the workplace. When faced with challenging circumstances, staff members try to follow their manager’s lead by thinking about what they would do.

Why is referent power best?

Referent power results from one person liking, respecting, and in some way identifying with another. Celebrities have referent power, which allows them to sway public opinion on a variety of issues, including what people buy and which politicians they elect.

How do you get referent power?

There are many characteristics that make up a great leader, but referent power—the capacity to foster respect, adoration, and loyalty from others—is perhaps the most difficult to develop. Possessing referent power can promote open dialogue and a happier workplace.

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