Referent power

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Referent power is power of an individual over the Team or Followers, based on a high level of identification with, admiration of, or respect for the powerholder/ leader.

Nationalism, patriotism, celebrities, mass leaders and widely-respected people are examples of referent power in effect.

Referent power is one of the Five Bases of Social Power, as defined by Bertram Raven and his colleagues in 1959.

Definition: Referent power refers to the ability of a leader to influence a follower because of the follower's loyalty, respect, friendship, admiration, affection, or a desire to gain approval.

Referent power is gained by a leader who has strong interpersonal relationship skills.

Referent power, as an aspect of personal power, becomes particularly important as organizational leadership is increasingly about collaboration and influence rather than command and control.


  1. 1French, J., & Raven, B. The bases of social power. Studies in social power (1959).
  2. Taylor, Peplau, & Sears (2006). Social Psychology (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-13-193281-0
  3. Joseph C. Thomas. "Leadership Effectiveness of Referent Power as a Distinction of Personal Power". Regent University Center for Leadership Studies, LEAD605 Foundations of Effective Leadership, 18-Feb-2002