Power and Leadership

Story Line
French & Raven 1959 Sources
Power of lower Participants -  Mechanic 1962
Social Exchange
Graen et al 1975 Vertical Dyad

Story Line - Power and Leadership

Once upon a time,

the WILL TO POWER was not considered such an evil ambition. McClelland saw power as a trait and a basic need, Machiavelli viewed it as a part of the strategy of Renaissance princes, and Nietzsche wrote a book called WILL TO POWER.

As those in search of leaderly theory set sail from the Isle of Traits to the Isles of Behavior and Situation, power became less and less acceptable to the masses. Those who set sail for the Isle of Power see understanding WILL TO POWER as integral to leadership. Without power is leadership possible?

Powerful leaders can fire, hire, promote and demote "at will." There are trappings of power, as some leaders have more privileges from power such as company cars and planes, more staff, bigger offices and budgets.  People applaud and emulate, comply with willing acceptance and some fear, or resist those in power.

Various cultures approach WILL TO POWER differently. Some Latin and Asian Pacific Rim cultures prefer lots of distance, respect, paternalism, and deference to those in power; authoritarian will is the way to lead. Some Anglo ones prefer low distance, with more participation and democratic counter-balance to leaderly power. French German and Italians are thought to prefer an "Eiffel Tower" cultural model and like to see the boss at the top of the Tower; leaderless, self-managed teams are not so popular there. Hofstede made a career pointing out country by country differences. That is, until people began to find cultural differences within countries that violated Hofstede's predictions.

Among the inhabitants of Power Island are those who debate the power of higher order and lower order participants. And then there are the social exchange theorists that see power as an aspect of everyday life, like borrowing something from a neighbor, knowing they will soon borrow from you.

We now have a dilemma. A contradiction between WILL TO POWER and WILL TO SERVE.  It is the "Y" dimension of the IN THE BOX model of leadership.

Consult -- Theatrics of Power exercises and games to go along with this study guide.

Figure 1: In the Box Model of Leadership, X, Y, & Z

There are three dimensions in Figure 1 that summarize most of leadership theory. X is the behaviors of leadership, be they transactional or transformational. Y is the power of leadership, but that a Will to Serve or a Will to Power. Z is participation, be it one-voice (monophonic, autocratic) participation, or many-voiced (polyphonic, democratic) participation. 

X Dimension - Transactional to transformational leadership, as studied by Burns (1978) and Bass (1985). This is a classic dualism in leadership studies.  Burns looked at modal thinking (the means over ends reasoning) in the early stages of development and held these leaders to be "transactional." Transactional leadership "requires a shrewd eye for opportunity, a good hand at bargaining, persuading, reciprocating" (Burns, 1978:169). A "transformational leader," on the other hand, "recognizes and exploits an existing need or demand of a potential follower... (and) looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower" (p. 4).

Y Dimension - From the Will to Server to the Nietzschean Will to Power. The Will to Power is specifically excluded from transaction and transformational leader theory by both Burns and Bass. I therefore treat it as a second dimension of leadership.  It is quite silly study leadership as just a well to serve; many leaders pursue power, some are able to do good things with it, others are swallowed by power. Nietzsche wrote about Will-to-Power (WTP) and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (TSZ) as having something to do with the will to initiate and implement a goal as well as the more macro construct of Darwin's theory of natural section, the power to transform the inherited advantages from generation to generation (WTP #362). And WTP is also a Will to Truth (TSZ, pp. 28, 113). The WTP is a will to overcome the small people, "they are the superman's greatest danger" (TSZ, p. 287). And the superleader is not satisfied with the happiness of the greatest number of workers or consumers (TSZ, p. 287). The Super leaders sees the abyss with the eyes of an eagle and grasps the abyss of poverty and misery with the talons of an eagle (TSZ, p. 288).

Z Dimension  - From monophonic (single voice) narrative to (polyphonic) narrative. Some leaders cultivate one voice, their own, and others are more pluralistic, able to create polyphonic leadership.

First - there was one voice -In bureaucratic theater, there is mostly monologue. In bureaucratic leadership, for example, there is mostly monologue; other voices are there on the stage but forbidden to speak, or they can only be whispered, their words unhearable, drowned out by the one official narrator who is authorized to take center-stage and speak and speak some more.  As Kirkeby (2000: 232) argues it is the right of power to narrate events, to declare them romantic, tragic, comedic, or ironic, and then of course make them all into a romantic narratives that fits the bureaucratic pension for monophonic (single voiced) influence.   For any other voice to speak would be an act of bureaucratic espionage; certainly for the secretary to speak would be unthinkable rebellion.

Second - there were two voices - In the Quest two or more players take the stage, but it is rarely more than dialog. In dialogue the "I" and the "Other" take the stage and we hear voices, but little reflection. It is no longer the monologue of the I declaring the Other as villain. The Other gets to speak and be heard by the 'I."

Third - there were three voices - To me, this voice that Kirkeby describes is the same one discovered long ago by Adam Smith. Smith looked at global capitalism and say that without ethics events might well follow a logic of the market place that would not lead to ethical relations among buyer and seller, employer and employed, monopolist and entrepreneur. It is the internal spectator, the voice that speaks to us while observing the First and Second (the I and the Other) rehearse there dialogue on the stage in our mind's eye. And in this model, even two actors on the stage visualize the dialogue of the Triad in their own head, but as well in the head of the other.

Fourth - then there were four voices - This is a very special voice, one we sense is about to speak but does not, one that is on the stage but stays in the shadows. In the Fourth, "the event is never over and done with" (Kirkeby, 2000: 237). And with the about to speak voice of the Fourth, we are intuitively aware of the simulation and almost can here the polyphony of voices, a mob about to take storm the stage. We may hear a groan, a murmur, a mumbling sound, but we can never quite make out the words. We can sense somehow the bureaucratic machine, the quest journey, and even chaos itself are just mythic metaphors some people have speculated and articulated about the web of human events (web is yet another one, as it theater a metaphor). We sense the gap, and we know with one more step we will certainly fall into chaos. See Boje (2000c) for more on the multiple voices of leadership.

Table 1 integrates the Leadership Course with the Small Business Consulting Course (SEAM), and the SEPTET model. SEAM means Socio-Economic Approach to Management. It is based on the idea that the Sociology of Work is embedded in an Economic Situation. SEAM looks at such behavior a strategy, and the power and disempowerment of the working conditions. SEAM also addresses levels of participation in the 3C's (dialogs of communication, coordination, & cooperation).

In our move OUT of THE BOX, we land in the land of Theatre. Leadership is not just X (behavior), Y (power), and Z (participation), it is theatre. The SEPTET is the seven elements of theatre, and can be used to assess leadership. The SEPTET elements in Table 1 are plots, themes, dialogs, characters, frames, rhythms, and spectacles. 

  Table 1

Out of the box

In the box




Box  Dimensions


Plot s

X Behavior dimension (transaction/transformation)

Working C ondition


Y Power dimension (will to serve/will to power)

3C's (Communication, Coordination & Cooperation)


Z Participation dimension (1 voice/many voices)

Inside Box

Training the Cast


Traits (Myers & Briggs)

Work Organization



Situation of Box



Situation (time & place)


Spectacle s

The SEAM METHODOLOGY applies to leadership IN/OUT OF THE BOX web site  http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/388,  and Theatre approach to consulting, called SEPTET http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/septet/  For applications see ENRON is METATHEATRE Web Site.

 Click Here to read more on SEAM applications applied to Enron Case.

We can now put it together. X - Behaviors is the strategic plots of leadership, the grasping together of behavioral acts and characters into strategy. Y - Power is the working conditions themes, the opposition of themes of oppression and resistance to oppression. In Will to Power, the oppression is unleashed, and in Will to Serve, power attempts its exercise for the greater good. Z - participation is dialogic, it is a matter of the 3 C's (communication, coordination, & cooperation). Does the leader have one voice (monarch, mono-phonic, autocrat) or does the leader invite dialog (consults with, invites reaction, or involves others in democratic action). That covers the X, Y, & Z dimensions of IN THE BOX.

The Elements Suspended Within the Box - The BOX located two elements of SEAM and SEPTET.  In the Box, along the X, Y, & Z axes we have "Training the Cast of Characters" (traits of leaders and followers), and the "Work Organization Frames." Frames are ideologies, and in the case of Work Organization, has to do with Bureaucratic, Quest, Postmodern, and Chaos/Complexity ideologies. X, Y, and Z define the traits of leadership it the Box dimensions as well as the types of organizing frames. See Figure 1 elements. 

the Situation Dimensions of Leadership - The BOX is situated. It all depends upon the situation. There are two important dimensions to situation, Time and Space. The "Time Rhythms" of the situation has to do with the patterns of our life.  Everybody lives their life according to a rhythm. And there are rhythms that make up the situation, its cycles, just-in-times, seasons, work temp, etc. Each situation has its own rhythm; each organizational environment has its rhythm (ranging from placid, random, to the more turbulent ones). Leaders who manage rhythm, get their organization in sync with the rhythm of their environment. Get out of step, and you fall behind, you loose the pattern. The second dimension of the situation is the Spectacle. Guy Debord (1967) says we have moved from a production organization to a consumption organization; that was his critique of Marx. Marx developed the idea of product fetish, but did not foresee how prevalent the Spectacle would become in contemporary society. spectacle has "a strange hypnotic power that deluded the spectator" (Fetter, 1931: 4). Spectacle disguises and conceals the dark side of enterprise. There are four types of spectacle: concentrated theatre of the firm, the diffuse theatre that plays in the marketplace, the integrated theatre where the image of the firm is stage produced, and the megaspectacle where the gig is up and the spectators become aware of the difference between mask and real (as in Enron when spectacle turned to mega-scandal). 



About the X Dimension - In leadership theory of old, the Machiavellian Prince and Superman (Nietzsche) theories of leadership paid great attention to the WILL TO POWER, but in recent decades leadership has been locked in the prison house of the WILL TO SERVE.

James MacGregor Burns (1978) wrote an amazing book about the various types of Leaders. In Figure 1, he wrote of opinion leaders,  revolutionary, reform, government, and heroic leaders.  MacGregor wrote about the power of leaders, but wanted to limit leadership to a study of just the "Good Leaders" those who used their Power, with a definite Will to Serve. He wanted to limit leadership to the positive side of moral behavior. He was therefore not going to focus on Maciavelli or Nietzsche. 

Somewhere along the line, WILL TO POWER became associated with the dark side of power, and the field of Leadership spent the next fifteen years focused on WILL TO SERVE aspects of leaderly power. 

See The Prince as Leader and Leadership Traits - Machiavelli for more on the dark side of leaderly power.


French and Raven (1968)

We think that top executive hold all the power, but in reality, many lower participants can resist change, implement their own agendas and fight off boss-power.  Power is a game of centrality in various resource and person networks. 

On the formal side of the game table, French and Raven see five sources of power for those seated at higher level in the hierarchy; each has its tactical use according to Yukl and Falbe (1990, 1991).

POSITION POWER TYPES (have access based on formal position):

Legitimate Power - leaders are conferred the formal right to demand compliance from subordinates. The tactic here is to stress the legitimacy of one's position and set role expectations.

Reward Power - access and mediation of instrumental rewards others value. The tactic is to stress the instrumentalities that come from doing the tasks; Accumulate things of value to other or information of use to others.

MIXED TYPE (a bit of both though some place referent as a position type):

Referent power - influence stemming from one's affective regard (attraction) for, or identification with, another person in power position. The tactic here is inspirational appeals and ingratiation attempts that build trust and common interest. Weber (1947) looked at charisma that is endowed by followers in the wisdom and infallibility of a leader with supernatural ability.

PERSONAL POWER TYPES (stem from personal talents and skills):

Expert Power - based on expertise, competence and information (and knowledge). The tactic here is rational persuasion. Tactic is to build your credentials (as you are doing now by being in college or some training program).

Coercive Power- based on fear and  the ability to punish and others fear of punishment. The tactic here is to apply pressure; Accumulate punishments which could be levied on other or accumulate damaging information


Consult - Theatrics of Power exercises and games based on French and Raven classification.


OTHER RESOURCES: Power Exercise - Health Organization (link down)- based on Star Power Exercise Johnson, p. 229-270 in Joining Together, Group Theory and Group Skills (7th edition), David W. Johnson and Frank P. Johnson, Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Exercise - Write a paragraph on "How do you get your way?" This was an experiemtn by Falbo (1977).


Power of Lower Participants

David Mechanic (1962) found that people without formal position power, not seated at the top, but "lower participants" also exercise significant power. They control such instrumentalities as,

(1) access to resources such as materials and budgets,

(2) people needed to do a job, and

(3) information or knowledge, including knowing the rules.

If you want to test the power of lower participants, watch what happens to your access to these instrumentalities when a secretary or clerk you offend tightens up all the rules on you.  EPA and OSHA inspectors can mess with you if you give them a hard time. Lower participants can occupy central positions in the information and resource flow that give them significant sources of power to resist the power of those in formal positions of authority. 

Mapping Power Exercise - Develop your own power map. At the center of this map is YOU, and as you move to the edges, the people who control resources (information, people, and information) you need to succeed in your goals.  Draw maps of power in an organization you work in. Include both your opponents and allies.  A power map is not the same as an organization chart, it is about the resources people have or do not have access to and how they use them.  A power map depicts who and where the resources and power wielders are in your organization and who tends to ally with whom. Indicate: What are the different centers of power? What are the different levels of power (from most to least powerful)? Who has power over whom, and what kind of power? Use arrows or other symbols to indicate some of these relationships. Share the results of the activity during the class session.

Reading: How to build power. The P Word in the Workplace, Presentation by Donna Scheeder (1998).

Advocacy and negotiating by Ruthauff (1997)

Social Exchange

For Homans (1958), Blau (1964), and others power is a function of social exchange, a manifestation of an asymmetry in the relationship conceived in terms of control of information and personal affection and the exchange of social values (Stogdill, 1981: 169).

Thibaut and Kelley (1959) defined power as having behavioral or fate control over the behavior of another. Others such as Alvin Gouldner looked to the differentiation of social roles that were build upon exchange relationships.

Social exchange is everywhere. When neighbors exchange favors, watch one another's property; when children trade and borrow toys; when you build up idiosyncrasy credits.

Blau, Peter (1964) Exchange and Power in Social Life. New York: Wiley, pp. 88-97.

Social Exchange Theory Future Directions (an interview)


VERTICAL DYAD: Leader-Member Exchange Theory

Leaders can create in groups and out groups. The in groups have lots more power options than those at the margins.

The work of  Dansereau, Cashman, and Graen (1973), Graen and Cashman (1975), and Dansereau, Graen, and Haga (1975) and Grain (1976) proposed that leader-member relationships are heterogeneous and thereby established Leader-Member Exchange Theory. Leader-member exchange theory maintains that the leader and each individual member of a work group have a unique "dyadic" relationship. Therefore, the dyad, rather than the work group or the individual, is treated as the unit of analysis in leadership. Graen and Cashman (1975) coined the term vertical dyad linkage (VDL) . In leader-group interactions, judgments are made and opinions are formed by the leader and the member of each dyad. Leaders give more positive tasks to members who they feel support them. Each dyad is seen as a social exchange or negotiated transaction of leader-member.

Whereas both trait theory and situational theory concentrate attention on the leader, the L-M-X model focus is on the dyad. LMX does not assume leaders behave the same to every member of the group. And therefore, members of a group will not report that the same leader traits or behaviors. 

The Role theory of Katz and Kuhn (1966)  is the original theoretical base of the LMX (Graen, 1976). Leaders accomplish their work through role sets, in which the leader is most influential. The leader communicates to the member a set of expectations regarding the appropriate role behavior of the member (role expectation). The member then receives and interprets these sent expectations (received role) and may modify his or her role behavior. Finally, the member's role behavior transmits feedback to the leader (monitored behavior). there is a Burns and Otte 1999) summarize LMX in 3-phase model of leader-member roles:

  1. In the first phase, Role Taking, the leader communicates the desired role to the member, with no reciprocal contribution from the member. 

  2. In the second phase, Role Making, the relationship continues to develop and both parties contribute to defining the role of the member. During Role Making, members of the dyad initially employ the process of organizing their roles. A traditional work unit becomes differentiated during Role Making. 

  3. In the final phase, Role Routinization, the nature of the exchange becomes routine and established. 

Negotiating Latitude Construct. Dansereau, Graen, and Haga (1975) and Graen and Cashman (1975) described negotiating latitude (a continuum: at the low-negotiating-latitude end of the continuum) as the extent to which a leader allows a subordinate to identify his or her own role development, and they hypothesized that this negotiating latitude was central to the evolution of the quality of the leader-member exchange (Burns & Otte, 1999)

Leader and member need for power appeared to play a role in determining the level of negotiating latitude accorded the member. Leaders with high power motives accorded more negotiating latitude to members with high need for power than to their colleagues with low power motive. Leaders with lower levels of power motive were observed to accord more negotiating latitude to members with low need for power than to members with high power motives (Burns & Otte, 1999).

For more on the basics of Vertical Dyad Linkage Theory

References provided below.


See Boje, D. M. & Grace Ann Rosile (2001) "Where's the power in empowerment? Answers from Follett and Clegg." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, issue on Historical
Perspectives of Workplace Empowerment. Scheduled for publication in March, 2001.

Every management and leadership text these days has a chapter on empowerment.  It is talked about as if some boss can hand a subordinate or a team of them power. Yet, Mary Parker Follett the greatest of all consultants ever, said the you can not delegate, share, or give anyone power; power is something the individual must "grow" themselves. 

In many ways all the empowerment-hype is a rehash of what people learned and forgot about delegation. You can not delegate (you can abandon or force), the people themselves must grow their own.

Then there is the problem of what are we talking about when we say "empower."  Are people empowered, if they get to move their file cabinet, have plants or their desks, or sit in on a briefing?  Or, is empowerment something to do with the governance of the firm, their active and real participation and control over policies, strategies, and resources?  What do you think?


  1. You can not give or delegate or share power, it is something that is grown by people as they take ownership. Yet power is theorized as some kind of magic force those on high give to those on low.

  2. Power is not synonymous with influence (Stogdill, 1980: 170). Power is potential to influence some Other's observable behavior; power is an inference made by observers about influence.

Please Consult -- Theatrics of Power exercises and games 


Burns, James MacGregor (1978) Leadership. NY: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Burns, Janet Z & Otte, Fred L  (1999) "Implications of leader-member exchange theory and research for human resource development research."  Human Resource Development Quarterly; San Francisco; Fall Volume: 10 (3): 225-??. 

Dansereau, F., Cashman, J., & Graen, G. B. (1973). Instrumentality theory and equity theory as complementary approaches in predicting the relationship of leadership and turnover among managers. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 10, 184-200. 

Dansereau, F., Graen, G. B., & Haga, W. J. (1975). A vertical dyad linkage approach to leadership within formal organizations. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 13, 46-78. 

Graen, G. B. (1976). Role making processes within complex organizations. In M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1201-1245). Chicago: Rand McNally. 

Graen, G. B., & Cashman, J. F. (1975). A role making model in formal organizations: A developmental approach. In J. G. Hunt & L. L. Larson (Eds.), Leadership frontiers (pp. 143- 165). Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. 

Graen, G. B., Cashman, J. F., Ginsburg, S., & Schiemann, W. (1978). Effects of linking-pin on the quality of working life of lower participants. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22, 491-504. 

Graen, G. B., Liden, R. C., Ez Hoel, W. (1982). Role of leadership in the employee withdrawal process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67 (6), 868-872. 

Graen, G. B., Novak, M. A., & Sommerkamp, P. (1982). The effects of leader-member exchange and job design on productivity and satisfaction: Testing a dual attachment model. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 30, 109-131. 

Graen, G. B., Sz Scandura, T. A. (1987). Toward a psychology of dyadic organizing. Research in Organizational Behavior, 9, 175-208. 

Graen, G. B., & Schiemann, W. (1978). Leader-member agreement: A vertical dyad linkage approach. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63 (2), 206-212. 

Graen, G. B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to
leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multilevel multidomain perspective. Leadership Quarterly, 6, 219-247. 

Graen, G. B., Wakabayashi, M., Graen, M. R., & Graen, M. G. (1990). International generalizability of American hypotheses about Japanese management progress: A strong inference investigation. Leadership Quarterly, 1, 1-23. 

Heneman, R. L., Greenberger, D. B., Cr Anonyou, C. (1989). Attributions and exchanges: The effects of interpersonal factors on the diagnosis of employee performance. Academy of Management Journal. 32 (2). 466-76.

Mechanic, David (1962) "Sources of Power of Lower Participants in Complex Organizations," Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 7, No: 3, pp. 349 - 364. In (1985) Management Strategies for Libraries: A Basic Reader, ed. Beverly P. Lynch, 390-405. New York: Neal Schuman, 1985. Also in (in Shaftriz, Jay M. and Ott, J. Steven, 1994). See Readings In Managerial Psychology by Leavitt, Pondy and Boje (1980) pp. 396-409.