Legitimate power, which comprises positional and personal power, empowers leaders to influence their followers. For example, a manager can leverage their leadership power to direct employees to carry out tasks or adhere to specific protocols.
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What is Legitimate Power?
Legitimate power is a type of formal power that comes from someone’s position or title within a group or organization. This power is derived from the understanding that the person has the right to exert their authority because of their status.
Normally, formal or informal structures such as job titles, management positions, or elected offices facilitate the granting of this kind of power. A legitimate power position in an organizational setting is linked to the hierarchy, which establishes the command chain and specifies the authority boundaries for individuals at different levels. It can help make good decisions, stay organized, and communicate clearly, as long as it’s used responsibly.
Difference between Coercive and Legitimate Power
Distinguishing between coercive and legitimate power can be challenging for some individuals.
Coercive power is the Harsh Power that can detect and punish unlawful behavior, whereas legitimate power refers to the Soft Power of position, expertise, dissemination of relevant information, and identification.
Examples of Legitimate Power
Some of the legitimate power examples that discuss legitimate power people and their characteristics are given below –
- A CEO in a corporation: The CEO holds the authority to make important decisions, define objectives, distribute resources, and create business regulations, given their high-ranking position within the company.
- A teacher in a classroom: Teachers possess the authority to develop plans for lessons, give out and evaluate assignments, and implement classroom regulations to uphold discipline and encourage education.
- A judge in a courtroom: Judges possess the lawful authority to interpret laws, issue rulings, and apply sentences according to legal procedures and guidelines.
- A police officer on duty: Police officers are authorized to maintain public safety and order by enforcing laws, making arrests, and issuing citations.
- A government official: Officials in the government who are elected or appointed, like mayors, governors, or parliament members, have the legal authority to make choices for the people they represent.
Advantages of Legitimate Power
When used competently and ethically, legitimate power has benefits for both leaders and the individuals they impact. Let us have a look at some of the advantages that leaders can get when they wield legitimate power –
- Clear authority: Legitimate power establishes a well-defined hierarchy and chain of command, promoting effective decision-making and clear responsibilities.
- Order and stability: Having a recognized authority figure in an organization can promote a sense of order and stability, which, in turn, can contribute to a productive and harmonious work environment.
- Respect and compliance: People tend to follow the orders of someone with legitimate power because they acknowledge the authority that accompanies the position.
- Facilitates decision-making: Having legitimate power enables those in authoritative positions to make decisions swiftly and effectively without the need for continuous consensus or approval.
- Conflict resolution: The presence of legitimate power can be beneficial in resolving conflicts within an organization as it sets up a structured process for solving disagreements and creating standards for proper conduct.
- Motivation and engagement: Enhanced comprehension regarding the chain of command and one’s position in it may boost employee motivation and involvement, resulting in greater job contentment and productivity.
- Accountability: When leaders have legitimate power, they feel accountable for the decisions and actions they take in their role.
It’s important to mention that the success of legitimate power hinges on the leader’s responsible and ethical exercise of it. If legitimate power is misused, it can have unfavorable outcomes such as team members feeling resentful, uninvolved, and demoralized.
Disadvantages of Legitimate Power
- Potential for abuse: People who have legitimate power have the ability to mistreat or manipulate others, which can result in an unfavorable work atmosphere and a lack of faith and admiration.
- Over-reliance on authority: If leaders only rely on their legitimate power, they could miss out on developing important leadership abilities like empathy and persuasion. This could lead to limitations in their effectiveness and difficulty in building strong relationships with their team.
- Resistance and resentment: Unfair or excessive use of legitimate power may cause employees to resist or resent the authority figure, resulting in lower morale, productivity, and cooperation.
- Bureaucracy and rigidity: Overemphasizing hierarchy and formal authority may cause bureaucratic hurdles and hinder decision-making, which can suppress innovation and adaptability.
- Impersonal relationships: The use of legitimate power may cause a rift between leaders and their team members, as it may lead to a culture where personal relationships and trust are not given importance.
- Inflexibility: If a leader relies too much on their legitimate power, they may struggle to respond to situations that require flexibility or consideration of different viewpoints. This is because they may be too focused on maintaining their authority and the current way of doing things.
- Overemphasis on status: Legitimate power may cause individuals to become too preoccupied with their position in the company, which could result in power struggles and competition instead of cooperation and working together as a team.
How to use Legitimate power in an organization?
When using legitimate power in an organization or business setting, it’s essential to keep the following principles in mind to ensure effectiveness –
- Establish clear roles and responsibilities: Establishing clear roles and responsibilities for each team member is crucial for the effective exercise of legitimate power. It also facilitates employee understanding of their position in the organization and who they should report to.
- Develop policies and procedures: Creating clear policies and procedures helps leaders make consistent decisions that support the organization’s objectives and values.
- Delegate tasks and responsibilities: Leaders who hold legitimate power should assign tasks and responsibilities to their team members, giving them the authority to manage their work and creating an environment of trust and cooperation.
- Lead by example: Leaders must use their rightful authority in a responsible and ethical way, showcasing to their team the significance of equity, responsibility, and honesty.
- Communicate openly and honestly: Clear communication is important for leaders to gain the trust and respect of their team. It also ensures that the use of legitimate power is perceived as fair and justified.
- Be responsive and approachable: Leaders need to be receptive to feedback and responsive to their team’s concerns or suggestions, highlighting the importance they place on the contributions of their team.
- Balance with other forms of power: Leaders who are effective use, not only legitimate power but also combine it with other forms such as expert power (which comes from knowledge and skills) and referent power (which comes from personal relationships and charisma). This helps to develop a more adaptable and flexible leadership approach.
- Encourage professional growth and development: To enhance their own legitimate power, leaders should provide opportunities for training, mentoring, and skill development to support the professional growth of their team members.
- Recognize and reward achievements: Recognizing and praising team members for their hard work and achievements can enhance the leader’s legitimate authority. This indicates gratitude for their input and emphasizes the importance of their efforts.
- Adapt and evolve: To foster an inclusive and supportive work environment, good leaders must be receptive to change and be willing to reconsider their use of legitimate power.
Legitimate power is one of the most important traits of a good leader. As a positional power, it allows leaders to influence their direct reports and encourages voluntary cooperation from team members for the benefit of the whole organization.
With low legitimate power, it can be difficult for leaders to gain the respect of their subordinates and get them to cooperate in working towards common goals. Therefore, a successful leader should find ways to incorporate the legitimate type of leadership style while wielding influence productively.
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