5 Types of Power – A Project Manager Can Use In A Project

Eventually project managers use different types of power to deal with varied situations.

First of all, what is power in this context?

The types of power you use may influence the stakeholder in favor of your decision.

This is a one of the popular and also confusing topic in the PMP exam.

The confusion is because different project managers use each of these powers in various scenarios differently.

Types of Power

5 Types of Powers

Eventually PMP exam focuses on the 5 types of power researched by two popular researchers named French and Raven.

They are

  1. Legitimate Power
  2. Reward Power
  3. Expert Power
  4. Referent Power
  5. Punishment or Coercive Power

Let us look at each of them to understand in detail.

Legitimate Power

As a project manager you tell the team to do something. And the team does, because they report to you and they need to obey your orders.

Sounds good. So every project manager can use the legitimate power to get the work done by the team members. Isn’t it?

Not really.

Imagine, if you are working in a matrix organization or functional organization, the team is not going to report to you. There the challenge is.

In this specific case, the project manager may need to use other types of power as required.

Reward Power

Reward power is of use, when you can reward your team members to motivate them. However this power has to use with lot of careful considerations.

Any inappropriate or unfair use of reward power may lead the team to be counterproductive and may demotivate the team.

Always make sure that the rewards you are announcing are fair, achievable and motivating the complete team.

Rewards work well, when they are tied to specific goals or objectives.

Expert Power

Expert power is the team respects you for your expertise in a niche.

For example, you are good in problem solving, and whenever the team ran into issues, they come to you for help in those situations. Ultimately team respects you for your expertise, and they will do what you say, because they respect you for your expertise in that niche.

Referent Power

Team members admire you, be loyal to you, take you as a role model , then surely they listen to what you say.

For example, if you are purchasing a product, because your favorite celebrity advertise that. This is referent power.

Punishment or Coercive Power

You as a project manager punishes your team member, because he or she is performing or behaving poorly on the project.

Punishment power should be used carefully, and as a last option, when all of other powers  did not worked.

When you use punishment power, always use the conversation one to one, and not in front of others.


We have seen different types of power a project manager can use.

However  expert and reward powers are most effective in any typical projects.

Always use punishment power sparingly, when it is really needed and do it on one to one conversations.

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