Essay on Power and Influence

Keywords: weber authority types, influence tactics

Influence is a fundamental aspect of life in organization and it is unlikely that organizations could function at all without it. Almost all organizational members engage or attempt in influencing others and virtually everyone in any organization is subject to the influence of others. This assertion holds true for every type of organization, whether large or small in either public sector or private sector. In organizations, influence attempts to be occurring when legitimate authority or power is put into used. Therefore, influence is actually a process through which an attempt to extract compliance with the intentions from others.

In terms of power, it refers to the capability of an individual to influence the behavior of another person so that another person will act in accordance with the individual wishes. This implies a potential that need not be actualized to be effective and relationship of dependency. It underlies the whole spectrum of means for influencing behavior of emulation, suggestion, persuasion and coercion. It simply means that the more power a person has will provide more effectiveness of that person influence system.

Meanwhile, the concept of authority is as an explanation for compliance has been seized upon, to the exclusion of the concept of power. Max Weber makes a basic distinction between power and authority. Power involves force or coercion and is only an important factor as internal process in organization. On the other hand, authority is a form of power that does not imply force, but rather involves a suspension of judgment on the part of its recipients.

Directives or orders are followed because simply it is believed that it ought to be followed whereby compliance is voluntary. This requires a common value system among organizational members of which this condition is usually met. In other words, authority is also commonly known as authorized or legitimate power.


Whereas power is the capacity or potential to influence others, influence tactics are the actual methods used by a person to change the attitudes, behaviors and opinions of another targeted person. Although the concept of influence tactics is typically examined from the leader’s perspective, it should also be remembered that followers can also influence over leaders as well as over each other.

Various instruments have been developed to study influence tactics, but the most promising is the Influence Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ) by Yukl, Lepsinger and Lucia.

2.1 Tactics in Influencing

The Influence Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ) is designed to evaluate nine various types of influence tactics, thus its scales that provide us with a basic overview of various methodology of influencing others. The nine types of influence tactics are as below:

  • Rational Persuasion

The person uses factual evidence and logical arguments to convince the other person that whereby the request or proposal is viable and will eventually result in the task objectives’ attainment.

  • Inspirational Appeal

The person makes a proposal of request that creates enthusiasm by appealing to the other person’s values, ideals and aspiration or by increasing the other person’s confidence that it can be done.

  • Consultation

The person seeks the other person’s participation to plan a strategy, change or activity for which the other person assistance and support are needed, or the person is willing to adjust a proposal to deal with the other person’s concerns and suggestions.

  • Ingratiation

The person seeks to get the other person in a good mood or think or favorably that person before asking the other person to do something or before making a request.

  • Exchange

The person offers an exchange of favors that indicated willingness in reciprocating at a later time or promises the other person a share of the benefits if the other person’s help to accomplish a task.

  • Personal Appeal

The person appeals to the other person’s feelings of loyalty and friendship towards the other person before asking the other person to do something or before making a request.

  • Coalition

The person seeks the aid of other people to persuade the other person to do things or using the support of other people as a reason for the other person to agree also.

  • Pressure

The person uses demands, threats, persistent reminders or intimidation to influence the other person to do want that person wants and to gain compliance.

  • Legitimating

The person seeks in establishing the legality of a request or proposal by claiming the right or authority to do it or by confirming that it is in consistent with practices, rules, policies, organizational, practices and traditions. It occurs when the person making requests based on the position or authority held.

The Effectiveness of Influence Tactics

In general, consultation, inspirational appeal and rational persuasion were the most effective for influencing task commitment regardless of the direction. These three tactics all involve an attempt to change the target’s attitude about the desirability of influence attempts in all three directions.

Pressure, coalition and legitimating were usually ineffective whereby it involve negative relation between these tactics and target commitment that reflects the frequent use of influence attempts when resistance is anticipated or has already occurred in an earlier influence attempt. These tactics are likely to be viewed as socially undesirable types of influence behavior in many situations and the target may become resentful of angry with the person who is trying to coerce or manipulate the other person.

Ingratiation, personal appeals and exchange were moderately effective in influencing subordinates or peers but the personal appeals and exchange tactics were ineffective for influencing superiors. The person have a weak power base from which to use these tactics in an upward direction and they are likely to be viewed as manipulative in this context. Ingratiation is more effective when used as part of a long term strategy for improving upward relations rather than as a tactic for immediately influencing a superior.

Getting to understand the appropriate usage of influence tactics will have implications in improving the managerial effectiveness as it is an advantage for a manager to know which tactics have the highest likelihood of success for influencing a subordinate, peer or superior. The outcome of any particular influence attempt is determined by many factors besides influencing tactics and any tactic can result in target resistance if it is not appropriate for the situation or is used in an unskillful manner.

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Choosing the Best Influence Tactics

A strong relationship exists between the types of influence tactics used and the relative power of agents as well as targets. Leaders might be more able to facilitate a broad variety of influence tactics to adjust the followers’ attitude and behaviors. This is due to leadership practitioners with relatively high amounts of referent power has establish close relationships with followers.

However, leaders that have high referent power usually do not use the tactics of pressure and legitimizing in order in influencing followers because leaders will be losing the referent power by threatening its followers. Leaders that have coercive or legitimate power only might be able to facilitate only the tactics of pressure, legitimizing or tactics in influencing followers.

There are other factors that can also affect the choice in influence tactics such as using the hard tactics, the soft tactics or rational tactics. People typically use hard tactics such as pressure or legitimizing when the other individual’s attitude violates important norms, when an influencer has the advantage or when they anticipate resistance.

In contrast, people typically use soft tactic such as ingratiation when they personally benefited from the successful attempt, when they do not have an upper hand or when they expect resistance. Apart from that, people typically use rational tactics such as exchange or personal appeal when all parties are more or less equal in power, when benefits are for both organizational and personal or when resistance is not anticipated.


Organizational units and people in organizations get their power through their control of both power bases and power sources. Power bases refer to what power holders control that permits them to manipulate the behavior of others. In order to have power in situation, the power base must be of value to the power recipient.

French and Raven identified five bases of power which a person can potentially influence the other persons. By knowing the bases of power, it will give leaders a better understanding about the predictable effects either positive or negative of various sorts of influence attempts. Those five bases of power are as below:

  • Expert Power

Expert power is the power in knowledge whereby some people are able to influence other people through relative expertise in certain areas. It is possible for the followers having considerably more expert power than the leaders in certain circumstances because expert power is consider as a function of the knowledge amount a person has relatively to the other people in a group.

Leaders need to gain knowledge fast because leaders will have difficulties to influence the work unit just depending on expert power alone, especially in dealing with different followers that have considerably greater amount of expert power.

  • Referent Power

In order to counter the problems existing from a lack of expertise is by building strong bond of relationship ties with workers or subordinates. Referent power is the potential influence a person has due to the strong bonding of relationship between leader and the followers which will take time to develop. The more influence between the leader and followers exert over each other will means that the stronger is the relationship.

It is also possible for leaders that develop strong bond of relationships with the followers and in return, will have more referent power over the followers. Same situations will occur among the followers themselves whereby those who have relatively more referent power than their colleagues are often the spokesperson of the work unit.

In contrast, followers with small referent power will have little opportunity to outshine from the group norms.

  • Legitimate Power

Legitimate power will depend on the individual’s organizational roles and it can be thought of as the individual’s official or formal authority. People who have the authority or power will be able to make things happen and getting in done. An individual with legitimate power uses influence through demands or requests deemed appropriate by virtue of that individual’s position and role.

The other way around, followers may also possible to use their legitimate power to influence their leaders. Followers can actively resist a leader’s influence attempt by only doing work specially documented in the union policies, job descriptions and bureaucratic rules. Similarly, union policies or bureaucratic rules can be raised up by followers to resist a leader’s influence attempt.

  • Reward Power

Reward power involves the ability to influence other people due to a person’s control over desired resources. This may consist of the power to give raises, promotion, bonuses, granting tenure or service or selecting people for specific tasks. The opportunity to influence other people through the capability to administer rewards is a combination function of leaders, followers and circumstances. Organizations will be using of both intangible such symbolic rewards and tangible motivating its staff.

Leadership must be aware that followers will also be able to use reward power in influencing leaders. Followers can reward leaders by giving a high level of efforts when followers feel the leader is doing a good job, and followers may put less effort when they feel the leader is doing a dismal job. Followers may in turn modify a leader’s attitude and behaviors by modifying the level of effort produce by them.

  • Coercive Power

Coercive power is simply the opposite of reward power. It is the potential to influence other by the negative administration sanctions or even the removal of positive activities. It is the capability to control other person by the fear of punishment or even the losing of valued customers.

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Informal coercion as opposed to threats of formal type of punishment can also be used to change the behavior and attitudes and behavior of other people. Similarly, the followers will also be able to use coercive power to influence the behavior of the leaders. Followers can make threats to leaders with the act of slowing down work, strikes, industrial sabotage or even physical assaults in order to modify a leader’s behavior. Followers tend to use coercive power to change the behavior of leaders whenever followers have a considerably high amount of referent power within its co-workers.

In terms of power sources, Bacharach and Lawler go on to make an additional distinction between power sources and power bases. It is noted note that there are four sources of power in organizations. The term sources refer to the manner in which parties come to control the power bases. The sources of power meant are as below:

(1) office or structural position;

(2) personal characteristics such as charisma;

(3) expertise; and

(4) opportunity or the combination of factors which give parties the chance to utilize their power bases.

The expertise in the power sources is treated as a source and a basis of power since individual brings expertise with them to the organization through such mechanisms as professional training. It is then converted into a power basis at a specific point in time.

These sources of power are used in the power situations of authority and influence which in turn utilize the bases of power which have been distinguished. Thus, an individual or unit in an organization has a power source such as an official position in which power in the form of authority or influence is exercised. As the power is exercised, the power holder utilizes the power bases that are available. In this aspect, the bases cannot be used unless the power holder first of all has the appropriate power source.


Human varies in the motivation to control or influence other people as McClelland termed as the need for power. Persons with high desire for power will get psychological satisfaction from influencing others.

Individuals seek positions in order to influence others and often involved simultaneously in influencing people in many different organizations and decision making bodies. In these activities, it readily offers ideas, suggestions and opinions as well as seeking information used in influencing others. It values the tangible signs of status or authority, and the more indications of intangible of other people’s deference to them.

According to McClelland, it has been identified that there are two different ways of expressing the need of power. It is also known as the faces of power which are as below:

  • Personalized Power (Negative Face)

Personalized power is based on the traditional of power as domination over others. Individuals with a high need for personalized power are mostly lacking in self-control, impulsive, selfish and uninhibited. These individuals exercise power for its own interest, self-centered needs and not for the benefit groups and the organization.

  • Socialized Power (Positive Face)

On the other hand, socialized power implies a more emotionally mature expression of motivation. It is exercised in the service of higher objectives to organizations or other people and usually involves own sacrificing toward those ends. It mostly involves the process of empowering rather than autocratic style of management and leadership.


Max Weber distinguishes between types of authority in developing the well-known typology of traditional, charismatic and legal-rational authority. It can be further explained as below:

  • Traditional Authority

Traditional authority is based on belief in the established traditional order and is best exemplified by operating monarchies. Elements of this form can be found in organizations in which the founder or a dominant figure is still present. Today, the Roman Catholic Church serves as a good example since traditional authority is clearly represented by the system of pope, cardinals and archbishops. Basically, people still obey orders or instructions based on masters and inherited status.

  • Charismatic Authority

Charismatic authority stems from devotion to a particular power holder and is based on the individual personal characteristics. This type of authority is certainly found in modern organizations to which it can be either a threat or a benefit. Exercises power based on extra-ordinary qualities, charisma or even heroism. If an individual in an authority position can extend legal powers through the exercise of charismatic authority, then there is more power over subordinates than that prescribed by the organization.

  • Rational-Legal Authority

Rational-legal authority is the type of most power relationships in modern organizations. It is based on the belief in the right of those in higher offices to have power over subordinates and it is held to characterize contemporary bureaucratic forms of organizations.

By rational-legal authority is meant authority that conforms to the rules formulated to facilitate the rational achievement of the organization’s goals. Therefore, it can be seen that the particular rules and structures that organizations represent, the behavioral requirements imposed on employees and the right to apply sanctions for non-compliance are held to be objectively necessary for the rational achievement of organizational objectives as the justification. That is why the objectively rational claim is consider important and ultimately are the basis of the right to manage.


Legitimate authority is the right of decision and command that a person has over other whereby it is sanctioned or approved by those in the organization. Legitimate authority is embedded in the psychological contract and with that, a superior can expect a subordinate to comply with organizationally sanctioned requests. Authority is legitimate when the person who is the subject of influence believes that is right and proper for another person to exert influence or attempt to exert it.

Legitimate authority is reflected in the organization’s structure which defines the general distribution of legitimate authority by position location. Legitimate authority is accepted for three main reasons which consist of:

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(1) Every culture has a concept of legitimate authority in which it is generally accepted that some forms of authority as well as relationships between superiors and subordinates are appropriate while other forms and relationships are not;

(2) When joining an organization, its culture is transmitted through organizational socialization. An important theme in socialization is to rationalize the authority structure of the organization so that it can be accepted as legitimate;

(3) The organization orientation initially developed by general socialization that will affect legitimacy. In most organization, workers usual have little trouble with most directives from higher levels.


Authority is distributed both vertically and horizontally in organizations. It simply means that authority is granted from above top to bottom, and, from bottom to top, as well as, from right to left, and, left to right. In a multilevel hierarchy, an individual in a position to evaluate other are legitimated from subordinates and also from their own superiors. In an organization, level of authority is very important whereby it concerns with a person’s hierarchical level of an organization.

The types of behaviors most important to the effectiveness of leadership can change substantially as one move up an organizational ladder. Level of authority is an important aspect in conceptualizing an organization as it will affect the behavior of leaders as well as followers. Higher-level positions have more legitimate authority than those at lower levels. The organizational culture also reflects the legitimate authority structure. When large differences in authority exist between levels of managers, then there will most likely be very significant differences in status symbols.

Managers at the top level may have spacious and well-decorated offices set in very desirable locations in the headquarters building, while those at the next lower level may have smaller and less attractive offices. Staff such as coaches, first-line supervisors or lower level leaders will spend considerable amount of time training followers, scheduling practices and work, solving team performance or work-unit and implementing policies.

Meanwhile, higher organizational level leaders will have more autonomy and will spend relatively more time coordinating activities or event, setting up organization policies and making important decisions. Moreover, higher organizational level leaders will have the ability in performing a greater variety of activities or events and tend to be more using delegation and participation.


Power and influence are closely related concepts but they are no means synonymous. Power can be portrayed as a resource and a sort of reservoir force that can be used by a person to change the behavior of another.

The actual application of that force is what meant by “influence”. Through the application of power, a person has the capacity to influence another person to behave in ways that form the latter person would otherwise not behave. Power is the capacity to produce effects on other and as the potential to influence others.

At this stage, it is useful to refresh in distinguishing between authority and influence. Authority involves an acceptance of power system as one enters the organization, while influence is a power situation in which the decision is made either consciously or unconsciously, at the particular moment the power appeal is sent from power holder. Influence is the degree of actual change in a target person’s attitudes, values, beliefs or behaviors. When a persuader becomes institutionalized in the sense of being always accepted and thus legitimated by the recipient, this it becomes authority.

The distinction between authority and power was suggested by Max Weber to make an attempt to create effective organizations. Power is about getting someone to do something irrespective of their desire to do it or the extent of their resistance to doing it.

Meanwhile, authority rests on the assumption that the person is willing to obey and accepts the right of the person doing the ordering to expect compliance. Thus, the concept of authority as an explanation for compliance has been seized upon to the exclusion of the concept of power. The common distinctions between power and authority can be shown in the below table:





Personal ability to influencer others or events.

Formal right given to a preson to make decision or to command.


Flows in any directions.

Flows downwards in the organization.

Organizational Charts

Relationship cannot be shown in organization charts.

Superiors and subordinates relationships can be shown in organization charts.

Level of Management

Exist at all level of management.

Authority becomes higher if the level of management is higher, vice versa.


Not official in nature.

Always official in nature.

Positon Held

Resides in the person uses it.

Given to a position or post.


As a conclusion, it should be clearly stated that influence, power and authority are eventually closed related but have conceptually distinct constructs. The exercise of power will be legitimate through power, while authority is the power granted for a purpose. Authority will be derived from real and implied perceptions of the leaders’ position in an organization. Once it is accepted within the group in an organization of the particular beliefs, perceptions, positions and common perspectives, it will expect and value certain patterns of influence.

Influence can be considered as the means which power and authority are transacted. Power is defined in terms of potential or capacity for action and authority refers to the situational mediators or organizational of power. These combinations will determine the perceptions and resources that establish social interaction. Although influence is determined by power and authority but they are not identical because influence refers to the process whereby power is exercised and authority is legitimated. Influence translates the potential of power authority into the realization action of leadership.

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