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The framework of Building Referent Power








Referent Power

Referent power is the ability to communicate a sense of personal acceptance or approval. People with excellent traits, charisma, and integrity are the ones who hold it. It is the most priceless type of power. Referent power is derived from the junior’s dedication and respect for the managers, and it reveals itself when a worker wishes to communicate with the manager they like. Referent power is typically demonstrated by leaders who are charismatic and who can inspire a strong desire for follower-ship due to their magnetic personalities. Juniors are willing to follow their manager’s directions because of how they interact with and treat them (Kovach, M. 2020). James, for example, describes Fabian as a great boss who is easy to work with and has always treated her properly. When Fabian asks James to do overtime work, he agrees without hesitation since he has seen Fabian stay late on numerous occasions and wants to do what he believes will please Fabian. Referent Power is critical for a leader because it is based on subordinates’ belief that the manager is a good leader due to a charismatic and empathetic leadership style.

The framework of Building Referent Power

There are no magic bullets here, but I presume our framework provides clear goals for aspiring leaders to work toward overtime. In order to gain referent power, you must excel in four areas:

1) You have a track record of success. You complete tasks on time and budget, satisfy customers and deliver what is expected. As a result, you contribute to the success of others while also adding value to any team or project to which you are a member.

2) You have a reputation for being a trustworthy individual. You are diplomatic and, when necessary, facilitate compromise. You hold people accountable while treating them equally in light of the situation.

3) You are a role model for good behavior. You hold yourself to the same high standards that you expect your subordinates to hold themselves to. Work ethic, timeliness, responsiveness, accuracy, and thoroughness are a few examples, but there are likely to be many more that are specific to you and your company (Zhang, 2022).

4) You have excellent interpersonal skills. Personable qualities are possessed by those who wield referent power. You are regarded as a trustworthy and kind person. Perhaps you have a great sense of humor. Overall, you have decent moral behavior (this isn’t to say that there haven’t been awful moral referent power leaders — Adolf Hitler is a well-known example — but I only want good referent power leaders in my organization, not just “successful” ones.)

Importance of a referent power

A leader can use referent power to propel a company forward by cultivating good connection skills among employees that encourage cooperation, collaboration, and positive influence. Referent power is more important at higher levels of a firm since the leader with these qualities is more determined to make the organization more successful. Although impossible to quantify, success can be measured. Referent power produces a captivating leader who makes their people feel at ease. Through approbation, one can improve their referent power by building and growing the self-esteem of their followers, which boosts motivation. As a result of referent power, rewards and reinforcement can also help charismatic leader enhance their productivity (Kim, 2019).

The ability of a leader to influence and inspire his people is known as referent power. In numerous ways, such as decision-making, working consistency, and many other traits, the leader shapes his behavior and conduct in the best possible way. While the leader is not available or when they are working alone, the employees observe him and act how they assume their leaders would act in a similar situation.

Referent power is critical in an organization because it allows the leader and employees to interact effectively, fostering positive attributes among all employees. Employees imitate the leader’s positive characteristics and apply them to their work. They can improve their working experience at their positions and, as a result, their organization’s productivity by putting the beneficial traits they’ve acquired to good use.

Referent leadership develops additional leaders who share the same or superior characteristics. As a result, as they try to embrace the new leader’s new manner, the company will not have difficulty transitioning from one leader to another. Instead, they will be brought through the same experiences, which may be slightly tweaked to boost the organization’s productivity.

Referent power helps to build a positive work environment. This is because referent leadership is founded on the leader’s collaboration with the employees and the employees appreciating the leader; as a result of this collaboration and admiration, the leaders and employees gain mutual respect.

Advantages of Referent power

  • Promotes a positive working environment by ensuring that everyone in the workplace respects one another.
  • It aids in the succession of power from one leader to the next. This is because the attributes of the departing leader are passed on to the incoming leader; therefore, there will be few changes when the new leader takes over.
  • Referent power fosters positive interactions and relationships between the boss and his or her subordinates (Issac). This positive association encourages hard labor, resulting in increased output.
  • It instills confidence in the workplace. This is because when the leader is not there in the workplace, he is certain that the employees would act in the same manner as he would if he were present because they have absorbed his trait, and a sense of trust develops as a result.

Disadvantages of referent power

  • It can develop into emotional dependence among employees, which can lead to conflict if the leader disappoints them or diverts his focus away from them. He has a lot of influence over his employees, and they look up to him.
  • Some leaders may have undesirable characteristics that they mistakenly believe are desirable. Employees can copy these negative characteristics, and despite its merits, the tactic can spread to a large number of people.


There was some internal disagreement regarding whether charisma is important for referent power. Regardless of how beneficial it may be, I believe the focus should not be on assisting referent power leaders in improving their charm. It’s either there or not, and an aspiring leader would be better served by focusing on other aspects of their career, such as how their peers feel about working for and with them.

People like working for someone because they believe the boss is fair and grants them to share in the success. People want to feel appreciated when working with others, whether in a collaborative setting or in day-to-day interactions. They also want to feel like they are learning and growing and that their own contributions are recognized. All of the qualities stated (especially those related to human qualities) do not have to be perfect. It is possible to be a good leader with referent power while lacking in one or more domains, but a critical mass is required.


Kovach, M. (2020). Leader Influence: A Research Review of French & Raven’s (1959) Power Dynamics. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 13(2), 15.

Zhang, M., Zhao, X., Huo, B., & Flynn, B. (2022). The impact of power and relationship commitment on customer integration: a replication and extension. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management.

Kim, H. L., Choi, H. S., & Han, J. (2019). Leader power and employees’ information security policy compliance. Security Journal, 32(4), 391-409.

Issac, A. C., & Bednall, T. C. The effects of expert power and referent power on. Journal of Knowledge Management.


Last Updated on May 4, 2022

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