Friday, 7 August 2015

A new addition to the power stable: Care

Power can be defined as an intangible force, and as the ability of one person to influence another, in order to bring about desired outcome. Power is our individual capacity to cause change (Daft, 2007).

French & Raven, in their work way back in 1959, divided power into two groups: we have personal power (from two power sources; expertise = expert; trust and respect = referent) and position power (from three sources; your role = legitimate; ability to punish = coercive; and power to offer inducements = reward).

Power is something we often don't talk about: and sometimes, when we have it ourselves, we forget that others don't. When that happens, we can act like we are entitled.

And what is worse, others can see it.

I read a very interesting post by Saga Briggs a month or so ago on what students remember most about their good teachers, based on some research from Edinburgh Uni by Gale Macleod and her team. The model that the researchers used was Dennis Wrong's forms of teacher authority: personal, legitimate, competent, coercive, and by inducement. Hmm... hang on a minute! Those sound awfully like French and Raven's model of power...!

(While I still need to do some research into Dennis Wrong's 2002 model, it looks like his work builds on French & Raven's).

The Edinburgh Uni researchers found that the more a teacher cared about their students, the more respect the teacher would receive from students, and from this they have deduced that there is a sixth form of 'authority': "the authority of care".

Generally students want to please their lecturers: and it was thought that this arose from personal power - a mix of expert and referent powers. However, through their interviews, the researchers are now thinking that this idealised respect may actually come from this formerly unidentified aspect of Wrong's authority model: 'care'.

Care in their research includes trust, relationship building, future-focus, caring about outcomes and student welfare. It isn't from an "If I do what they say, they will like me" point of view: it is from a "I can see you like me, so I will try harder for you" place.

Wow. This is a great learning point. Remember that our clients, our workmates, our learners, our family and our community can see if we care about them, and they will respond positively to us if we genuinely care.

... and maybe this will help prevent us from feeling entitled :-)


  • Briggs, Saga (2015). 12 Things Students Remember Most About Good Teachers. Retrieved 28 June 2015 from
  • Daft, Richard L. (2007). The Leadership Experience (4th Edition). USA: Thomson South-Western.
  • French, John R. P., & Raven, Bertram (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power (pp. 150–167). USA: University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research
  • Macleod, Gale; MacAllister, James & Pirrie, Anne (2012). Towards a broader understanding of authority in student–teacher relationships. Oxford Review of Education, August 2012, Volume 38, issue 4 (pp. 493-508) 
  • Wrong, Dennis H. (2002). Power: its forms, bases and uses (Third Edition). UK: Transaction Publishers

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