What is Referent Power?

Referent Power Definition

A leader who possesses referent power earns the trust of others, which is crucial for effective leadership. Unlike commandable power, referent power is acquired over time on a case-by-case basis. In today’s world, leaders who can consistently maintain the trust of their team members drive productivity, engagement, and retention of valuable talent. It has been widely proven that people often choose to leave or stay with an organization based on their relationship with their manager. Hence, the ability to inspire trust and build strong relationships is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

How To Build Referent Power In Leadership

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for building a base of Referent power:

  1. It Takes a Long Time to Earn and no Time to Burn
    1. There is no predetermined timeline for establishing trust, respect and credibility with others. People need to “see you in action,” under stress, with a deliverable or on a project that truly matters. They need time to assess whether you have your interests in mind at the expense of others—or the interests of others in mind, potentially, at your own expense.
  2. It is Much More About What You Hear Than What You Say
    1.  When you are a leader, there are plenty of opportunities to talk. But your ability to earn trust and develop Referent power is dictated by the time you make to listen to what others have to reveal in a manner that genuinely communicates that their perspective matters.
  3. “Power With” Outplays “Power Over”
    1.  The less people consider your position in the organization relative to theirs when providing you with insight on their perspective, the higher the probability that insight will contain some true value.