What Is the Role of Power in Organizational Behavior?

Organizational behavior refers to the targeted study of the various interactions that occur within a specified organizational setting, in relation to its applicability to a wider set of standards that may be applied to such structures. The role of power in organizational behavior is just one of the many factors that affect the structure of organizational behavior. In the application of power in organizational behavior, it may be personal, legitimate or expert.


When studying the role of power in organizational behavior, personal power is clearly delineated from other types of power because it has its own characteristics. This type of power is vested in the individual and is not derived from any other source. It may be the result of the individual’s charisma or personality, and its role in organizational behavior is the extent to which other individuals within the establishment respond to this power. Such a leader is able to have a more personal and loyal relationship with subordinates due to the fact that the subordinates are responding to the nature of the leader as a person, and not because of any other consideration. The danger of this type of power is the fact that any change that occurs within the organization where a dynamic leader is replaced might be met with opposition and resentment by the subordinates who may not have the same level of affinity and loyalty for the replacement leader.

Another aspect of the study of the role of power in organizational behavior is the study of legitimate power within the organization. Legitimate power refers to the type of power that is vested within the position the leader is occupying, and, through transference, to the leader. This type of power has nothing to do with the personality of the leader who may lack any exceptional leadership qualities. For example, when someone is made the managing director of a company, the employees might not agree with the choice but they will still respect the manager’s decisions based on the established belief about the power inherent in the position of a managing director.

Power in organizational behavior may also refer to expert power, which is only based on the superior knowledge or skills of the person occupying a position. For example, if a manager of a computer firm has been appointed to that position due to his or her extensive knowledge of computers, the power the manger has over the other workers will be derived from the perception of the superiority of the manager’s skills. When it becomes obvious that another individual in the organization has a superior skill set, the manager might not be able to use such knowledge as a leverage for commanding the respect of subordinates.

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