Public leadership


A key objective of public leadership is to have an influence over people so that ones’ subordinates or followers perform what is required of them. The effectiveness of this leadership influence normally depend on the leader’s personality and that of people around them, the form of leadership power and how one’s subordinates perceives the involvement of the leaders towards achieving the stipulated vision (Hart & Uhr, 2008, p. 56). The nature of influence determines the form of power in public leadership; which refers to the ability of a leader to influence others. In the context of public leadership, there are three main sources of power at the expense of the leader in order to enhance organizational productivity and efficiency; they are legitimate, referent and expert forms of power (Kibe, 2010, p. 34).

Analysis of the sources of power

The three fundamental sources of power in public leadership are legitimate, referent power and expert power. Legitimate power refers to the power that a leader creates by virtue that one’s subordinates believe that the leader has a right of instructing them, and they have the obligation of following the instructions issued to them. Legitimate power is analogous to an authoritative style of leadership, whereby the leader significantly relies on the authority vested on him to get things done within the organization (Kibe, 2010, p. 45). In most public arenas that make use of legitimate power, the organizational structure is arranged in hierarchical manner, whereby each sub level has some authority to which they are answerable. In such a context, the leader’s title depicts the position of power and there is a possibility that subordinates in that particular organizational structure is influenced greatly by the opinions of the leader. It is uncommon to find a public organization structured in legitimate leadership whereby the subordinates do not take the opinions of the leader into consideration (Ramirez, 2011, p. 123). A significant characteristic of legitimate power is that it helps in the restoration and maintenance of order in a public organization. It is inferable that the lack of legitimate power causes chaos and lack of organizational efficiency, owing to the fact that chain of command will be lacking. This means that an organization cannot achieve its direction and mission if legitimate power lacks. However, legitimate power does not guarantee that employees will maximize their potentials or feel empowered by the leader. The effectiveness of legitimate power is only limited to individuals who have identified those in power and are subservient to authority. The basic argument is that legitimate power requires the support of other forms of power in public leadership in order to be fully effective.

Referent power in public leadership is normally established when followers are of the belief that the leader has the appropriate leadership qualities according to their admiration. In such a case, the followers often try to imitate their leader. Fundamentally, the effectiveness of referent power relies on the followers’ perception with respect to the personality of their leader. Referent power deploys the use of transactional leadership rather than authoritarian style of leadership. Referent power is required in order to offer the feeling of support and commitment that the leaders have towards their followers (Kibe, 2010, p. 56). Referent power is one of the most effective approaches of empowering and motivating followers towards an organizational direction, this is because it entails the leader’s involvement and commitment towards the realization of the stipulation organizational direction, mission and vision. As a result, followers are likely to be influenced by this form of leadership. A significant constraint of using referent power is that it does address diversity effectively; this is because different individuals in an organization have different personality admirations and expectations from their leaders. This implies that this form of power will only be effective on individuals who perceive the leader as their admiration, while it will be resisted by followers who have different expectations and admirations. Referent also requires supportive power frameworks to be effective

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