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How can Leaders Create Referent Power?

How Can Leaders Create Referent Power?

How Can Leaders Create Referent Power?

Referent Power refers to leaders' ability to influence others, based upon the team's positive opinions of their leaders' character, competence and moral standing.

Leaders who want to build referent power should be:

  • Honest
  • Collaborative
  • Hard working
  • Decisive.
  • Have integrity.

Referent power is the product of leaders displaying a consistent pattern of high-quality behaviours and simultaneously avoiding bad behaviours.

Referent power leaders consciously aim to build a track record that engenders feelings of commitment.

When leaders succeed in gaining the respect and commitment of the team, then they have acquired referent power.

Good leaders cannot demand referent power, instead, they must earn it.

What specific behaviours are the most potent builders of Referent Power?

Leaders who want to build referent power should always strive to be:


Honest in two ways:

  1. Honest in terms of their communication. The referent power leaders are "straight talkers". They do not prevaricate, equivocate nor distort the truth.
  2. Honest in terms of property. The leader is "straight" in all financial affairs.


Collaborative means that leaders recognise the value of other people's skills, knowledge and experience, and they work hard to gain the willing cooperation of their colleagues. Referent power leaders influence people to act, rather than merely issue orders.

Hard working.

Referent power leaders are energetic and hard working. Their work is mostly cognitive, and comes in the form of handing information, communicating goals and plans, and making high value, accurate decisions.

Contrary to popular opinion, great leaders do NOT have to be "on the front line getting their hands dirty". (For example, Winston Churchill was not amongst the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy: he was in London, directing operations.)


The primary role of leadership is to make good decisions.

Referent power leaders are decisive.

They do not dither.

They do not make bad decisions.

Referent power leaders make quick, rational decisions which are based upon a logical evaluation of all the available evidence.


Integrity means: There is no contradiction between a person's speech and action:

Referent power leaders have integrity:

  • They DO what they SAY they will do.
  • They don't SAY one thing and then DO the opposite.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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