Difference between Position Power and Personal Power

Traditionally two bases of power have been identified. They are: Position power and personal power. Amitai Etzioni distinguished between position power and personal power. According to him power is derived from an organisational office as well as personal influence or both.

Persons, who are able to induce other individuals to do a certain job because of their position in the organisation, are considered to have position power. On the other hand, individuals who derive their power from their followers are considered to have personal power. Some individuals can have both, position and personal power.

Etzioni asserts that positional power comes from organization office or manager. However, Hersey and Blachard contend that the positional power clones from above and therefore, is not inherent in the office.

A manager occupying a position in an organisation may have more or less position power than their predecessor or some one else in a similar position in the same organisation. It is not a matter of the office having a power, but rather the extent to which those people, to whom managers report, are willing to delegate authority and responsibility down to them. This is not to say that leaders do not have any impact on how much position power they accrue.

Personal power is the extent to which followers respect, feel good about, and are committed to their leader and gee their goals are being satisfied by the goals of their leader. Personal power, in their words, is the extent to which people are willing to follow a leader.

In the 16th century Machiavelli raised an interesting debate relating to the positional power and personal power. Machiavelli feels that it is best to be both loved (personal power) and feared (positional power).

However, he pointed out that if one cannot have both, a relationship based on love alone tends to be volatile, short lived and easily terminated when there is no fear of retaliation.

On the other hand, power based on fear alone tends to be long lasting in that the individual must be willing to incur the sanction before terminating the relationships. While positional power and personal power are useful in understanding power, their scope is limited because they divide the power only into categories.

Several scholars developed various power-based systems. Peabody classified the power bases into four categories. They are: legitimacy, position, competence and person. French and Raven proposed five different bases of power: coercive power, expert power, legitimate power, referent power and reward power.

Later Raven and Kruglanski added sixth power base information power. Again Paul Hersey and Goldsmith identified seventh power bases, namely connection power.