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Ethan Woyansky

Professor Scott Harris

UNIV 392

9 June 2017

Leadership and power are deeply intertwined within the realm of social interaction -

those who are leaders have some sort of power, and powerful people are generally perceived to

be leaders. Chairmen, Kings, Queens and Presidents all gain immense power from their status as

leaders. In my life, Ive heavily interacted with each of the bases of power Northouse describes,

and as Ive grown older Ive gained more insight as to how our social relationships and identities

change the perception of who leaders are in our lives.

When I was a kid, I would say that the majority of those who I perceived to be leaders

were exercising legitimate power over me - that is, my teachers, parents or doctors told me to do

something and I listened. Legitimate power is described by Northouse as having status or

formal job authority. (Northouse, 7) One could also posit that teachers, parents and doctors hold

leadership positions such as these because of their expert power - theyre good at what they do -

whether thats teaching material, saving lives, or simply being an adult. Growing up, learning

from those older and wiser than us was often an exercise in referent power - I simply loved my

parents and would do anything they told me because I perceived them as amazing people. For

good grades, Id often receive some sort of gift - a candy bar perhaps - my parents therefore

utilizing the reward power. And at other times, bullies would show up and demonstrate coercive

power, often demanding I do their homework or face serious physical and mental consequences

down the road. The bully led a group of others who would follow him, simply due to the fear that

he would do the same to them should they not follow.


One key factor to the bases of power is that it is often not simply one base at a time - they

intermingle and coexist from situation to situation. As an adult, and as a leader, many of my

bases of power have grown, granting me more authority in more situations. I often try to be the

most prepared person wherever I go - it simply means Im ready to do the best job I possibly can.

Using expert power means that regardless of how someone else perceives me on a personal basis,

they may wait for me to speak first because of my situational knowledge.

Humor is also a key aspect of how I interact with my peers - it can lighten up a situation

and make people feel more relaxed and happy. For example, last year I had a group project that

was quite stressful - we were getting down to the line for the due date, and I told a simple joke at

the right time that pushed us through to the end. They listened to my advice because they trusted

in my personality - and that was all that ended up mattering. Ive always tried to integrate some

sort of referent power, therefore, into my interactions with others, as it establishes that Im

someone whos willing to have a good time while still getting work done.