What is Legitimate Power?

Legitimate power in an organization is best defined by relative position. To whom do you report? Who reports to you? Who are your peers? What are the parameters, expectations and limits of your formal decision-making authority?

Legitimate power really boils down to your ability to:

  1. Drive Accountability: Are you in a position to hold others accountable for their actions (or lack thereof)? Operating under the auspices that “there is never a right time to do the wrong thing,” if someone steps over the line and does wrong, can you administer a consequence? Can you act in response to the wrongdoing in a manner that sends a message to the wrongdoer (and others in proximity as well) that wrongdoing will not be tolerated?
  2. Provide Recognition: On the flip side of that coin, does your position afford you the ability to formally reward others? If, conversely, “there is never a wrong time to do the right thing,” if someone does right, can you tangibly acknowledge the rightdoing in a manner that makes it clear that you (and the organization you represent) value rightdoing and would like to see more of it whenever possible?
  3. Connect Others to Opportunity: Have you ever gone to a party with a friend where you knew absolutely no one else as you walked through the door, but somehow had a room full of brand new friends before the evening was through? Knowing someone that will take the time to introduce and advocate for you can open a whole new world of possibilities—much the same in an organizational setting. Your position provides you with the opportunity to introduce and advocate for members of your team with others they simply would not have met otherwise.