There are seven bases for power, with four being formal and three being personal (Robbins et al 2004, p.394-6). These include: coercive, reward, legitimate, information, expert, referent, and charismatic power.
Coercive power is primarily dependant on fear. In this respect an employee is influenced by another person based on their fear of what might occur if they do not comply. An example in ICU may be a manager who asks you to do him or her a favor, and there is a fear that a refusal may mean that you will not get the promotion you have been expecting.
Reward power may be seen as the opposite to coercive power, in the sense that it deals with achieving one’s goals by being compliant. In ICU an example of this may be when it is not busy, a NUM may tell a nurse ‘if you check and re-stock the resuscitation trolleys you may go early.’
Legitimate power is similar to one’s authority, because it represents the formal authority a person has over another person based on their position within the organisation’s hierarchy. An example of this may be a clinical NUM asking, or assigning a nurse to look after a certain patient or patients.
Information power is the result of power obtained through a control of information that others need or are dependent on. For example, the store-person in ICU has a certain level of power based on the fact he is the only person who knows where to order all of the organisations supplies, therefore making the organisation dependant on him.
Expert power refers to the influence a person may have if they have a special skill or knowledge that is rare and required. For example, a computer programmer who has been employed to set up a specific computer system in ICU to monitor each patient’s vital signs, who may be one of a hand full of people with the expertise to do such a task will have enormous expert power, based on the organisation’s dependence on his or her skill.
Referent power has to do with genuinely liking someone, and wanting that person to like you back. For example, an exceptional doctor or physiotherapist who you want to be like will have a certain level of referent power based on your desire for them to like you. Inadvertently, you will want to do what they want you to do.
Charismatic power is virtually referent power based on an individual’s personality and interpersonal style being that which others respect and admire. An example of this may be the manager whose charisma, and general personality, allows everyone to want to work for him or her and be genuinely happy to do what he or she wants them to do.