There are several bases or sources of power. John French and Bertram Raven have identified five bases of sources of power.
- Reward power: The ability to grant or withhold rewards is a key source of power. Rewards may be financial, social or psychological. Financial rewards include salaries, wages, fringe benefits, etc. support, praise, recognition, status, etc., are non-financial rewards. Persons seeking rewards are dependent on the individual who is in a position to offer the reward. He offers rewards in exchange of some behavioural act like effort, performance, obedience, loyalty and so on. Those who refuse to carry out his orders are denied rewards. A person may be in a position to offer rewards by virtue of being a manager, a leader or a relatively wealthy person.
- Coercive power: This is the ability to punish others for not carrying out orders or for not meeting certain requirements. The person who is in a position to coerce others forces or compels them to do or not to do something. The person who feels coerced complies for fear of punishment. For example, management may force workers to call off the strike by giving an ultimatum that otherwise they will be suspended. Coercive power is the opposite of reward power. Coercion may be direct or indirect, physical or psychological.
- Expert power: A person having expertise or specialized knowledge or information has power over those who seek his expertise. For example, a teacher has expert power over students, a chartered accountant over his clients and a doctor over his patients.
- Referent power: This is based on the personality attributes or personal virtues of a person. Such a person has a charisma which attracts people towards him. For example, Mahatma Gandhi became powerful and had a huge following due to his charisma. Reference as a source of power is a group or an institutional situation. The goals, values, work patterns, etc., of a group become frames of reference for some persons and they look to the group for inspiration and guidance. The group thereby commands power and any ‘manager of such a group acquires power by virtue of his association with the group.
- Legitimate power: This is derived from the formal position of a person in the organization. Formal legitimate power is called authority and it is vested on the individual.