Referent Power

Referent Power

Are you familiar with the concept of referent power?

Do you know what it means to possess referent power?

Do you want to know how to use it as a business owner or a leader in your organization?

Referent power is a very important skill for every business owner, leader, or anyone aspiring to occupy any management position or lead a group of people.

Beyond that, it would help you excel in your interpersonal relationship with people around you.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, how it works and it’s importance, stay with us.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeply into what referent power is all about; covering all essential aspects of the topic.

Read on to find out all you need to know.

Referent Power Definition – What is Referent Power? 

Referent power is one of the six bases or forms of power as identified by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven.

French and Raven define it as naturally possessing attractiveness, worthiness, and right to the respect of others.

Referent power can also be said to be possessing an influential personality or unique qualities as an individual.

It is being able to attract reverence, admiration, and loyalty from people around you.

Referent power is a concept that cuts across, business, professional, and personal life.

Likewise in interpersonal relationships, it means having a likable personality that makes people love, admire, and respect you.

It also means having a lot of positive influence on people around you.

This is such that they emulate your behavior and do the things you do.

Individuals with referent power have strong, admirable, and charming qualities that are liked by others.

Thereby, making them highly influential people either in the society at large or in the business and professional world.

Why Is Referent Power So Important; Why Is It So Influential?

Importance of referent power

Referent power means influence over a large group of people, you can influence their choices.., decisions, referent power can sway elections, and help sell products.

Over time referent power has proven to be one of the most important and influential forms of power.

Do Celebrities Have Referent Power?

Referent Power( What it is, and how toget it)

Most celebrities and top personalities possess referent power.

This shows in the way they attract a lot of admiration from different people all over the world.

They have a huge number of admirers and loyal fans all over the world.

They can influence people’s ideas, thoughts, and choices.

This is why they are mostly used as brand ambassadors as a marketing strategy for most products and concepts due to the level of influence they possess.

You could tell a particular celebrity’s level of referent power by his or her fan base.

Most celebrities and prominent people we love and respect today possess this kind of power.

As public figures, they are perceived to wield so much admiration, likability, and trust.

Hence, they can influence people’s choices, intentions, reactions towards certain products.

Referent Power In Business and Leadership

Referent power meaning

What does possessing referent power mean for you as a business owner, leader, or in the workplace?

Firstly, referent power in business means having a high level of influence in the world of business.

In business and leadership, referent power is the ability of the business owner or leader to attract respect and loyalty from his/her followers or subordinates.

What does having referent power mean for your business or brand as a business owner or entrepreneur?

  • You’ll have a huge influence on the marketplace- Your brand will be considered as one of the best brands or products in the market.
  • It also means huge followership in the form of a huge customer/client base.
  • This also means more profitability for your business.
  • It means you’ll become an authority in the business world; a strong brand name to be reckoned with.
  • More so, it means increased customer loyalty towards your products.

Overall, having referent power in business means building a good business reputation.

Moving forward, referent power in leadership means being able to attract respect, admiration, and loyalty from the people you’re leading.

Either as a business, religious, or political leader, possessing such power would certainly make you an influential and exemplary leader.

In other words, you’ll be a leader worthy of emulation.

What does this mean for you as a leader in an organization?

Referent power inspires loyalty, trust, and dedication amongst teams.

Thereby leading to increased productivity and efficiency in an organization.

Especially in the workplace or in an organization, it leads to employee retention and low employee turnover.

As a business owner with referent power, you’re able to inspire and model desired behavior to your employees.

This helps you get the employee’s loyalty and commitment to work.

Thereby, reducing the rate of employee turnover.

Referent power means

  • It means you’ll be an effective leader.
  • You’ll be able to pull large crowds (a lot of followers)
  • Thirdly, it means you’ll gain people’s trust.
  • You’ll be considered an authority in your field.

Referent Power in the Workplace

Referent Power in the Workplace

In the workplace, referent power means possessing a likable and admirable personality that makes other members of the team like and respect you.

In your professional career, possessing such power can certainly make a difference in your life.

Thereby, making you an influential team member in the workplace.

As a team member or employee, what does this mean for you?

  • This means that you’ll be one of the most valued members of the team.
  • Your decisions and opinions will be held in high regard.
  • You will be a role model to many especially your subordinates in the team.
  • You’ll have a good working relationship with your team members as well as superiors in the workplace.
  • More so, you’ll be trusted with important duties and responsibilities in the workplace.
  • It also means that you’ll easily get the support and co-operation of your team members when needed.

In a nutshell, referent power in the workplace is all about standing out as a unique and admirable individual.

Thus helping you have a lot of influence in the workplace and among your team members.

Referent Power In Groups Or Social Relationships

Referent Power in Leadership

What does this kind of power mean in social relationships?

This kind of power means having a likable personality that affects your social status positively.

It is all about being naturally loved, admired, and respected by people.

So, what does this kind of power mean in your interpersonal and social relationships?

As a regular individual aiming to possess referent power, this is what it means for you.

  • It means that you will be able to build more social and interpersonal relationships- you’ll have a large circle of loyal friends.
  • It also means you’ll be a very influential person who is loved and admired by many in your immediate surrounding.
  • Possessing such power means that you can easily get what you want from people- this is because they’ll respect and hold you in high esteem.
  • Also, you’ll be a role model for many people.

Overall, referent power in social relationships is all about being charismatic and attracting much admiration from people around you and in society at large.

Now you what referent power means in the world of business, leadership, workplace, and social relationships.

Let’s consider other aspects that would help you understand the concept better.

Examples Of Referent Power

referent power examples

In this section, we’ll be considering some examples of referent power.

By this, we mean real-life people who we perceive wield such power.

This is evident in how influential they are in their immediate environment and the world at large.

Hence, we’ll be looking at prominent people (celebrities, world leaders, business leaders, public speakers, and successful entrepreneurs among others).

Jeff Bezos

This is one of the first people we would like to consider as an example of someone with referent power.

Jeff Bezos is unarguably one of the top influential and successful entrepreneurs around the world.

Over the years he has been able to rise to the position of influence and affluence given his humble background through hard work and his innovativeness.

Today, he’s considered as an authority and role model in the business world.

Many people refer to his business journey for guidelines on how to start and grow a successful business.

Indeed, Bezos can be described as a visionary and charismatic leader.

This shows in his ability to inspire innovativeness and relentlessness in his team as a leader in his organization.

With over Millions of followers on his personal Instagram account, it is evident that Jeff Bezos is one of the top influential people in the world.

No doubts, Jeff Bezos has inspired many young and aspiring entrepreneurs that they can achieve their dreams if they willing to put in the efforts and hard work required.

Thus making him a world leader and a perfect example of referent power.

Bill Gates

This is certainly another influential world leader, entrepreneur, and a perfect example of referent power.

Bill Gates is the CEO and founder of Microsoft Corporation, one of the World’s leading producers of software and personal computers.

Through hard work, creativity, innovativeness, and consistency, he has been able to start and grow a successful business.

More so, he has acquired an influential status in the world today such that he inspires many young people to strive to achieve great things regardless of their educational background.

Many people consider him as a role model and a phenomenal leader worthy of emulation.

As a leader in his organization, he shows genuine concern for the overall wellbeing of his staff.

This makes his staff members loyal to him and to hold him in high regard.

Consequently, making him a leader with referent power.

example of someone with referent power

Oprah Winfrey

This is another phenomenal and dynamic leader worthy of mention.

Oprah Winfrey, founder of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah’s Angel Network and so many great establishments is truly an influential person.

From a humble and challenging background, she has worked hard in building a strong reputation for herself through her hard work and resilience.

Even more, facing so many challenges as a young girl and in her professional journey, she has done well in building a successful business and personal brand.

To most middle-aged women, young girls, and black women generally she’s considered as a role model and a worthy mentor.

Many look at her life’s journey as inspiration and guideline towards achieving their life’s dream successfully.

Furthermore, her charisma, personal qualities, confidence, and leadership style inspire people and cause many to admire her.

Thereby, making her a very influential leader with loyal followers all over the world.

Consequently, making her one of the perfect examples of a leader with referent power in these present times.

Barack Obama

Former U.S President Barack Obama is another remarkable example of referent power.

Although no longer in power, his name and personality still command so much respect and reverence from different people around the world.

This is due to his distinct personality and remarkable leadership style.

Throughout his time in power as the 44th President of the united states of America, he brought about remarkable and positive changes to the country.

Up until this time, America still stands to benefit from his goodwill, forward-thinking, and innovativeness as a leader.

This is due to some of the changes, new policies, and regulations he introduced to make America a better place to live in for its beloved citizens.

There are no doubts that Obama inspired many people and still inspires many people to date.

He proved that anything is possible if you believe and work hard towards achieving this.

He proved this by becoming the first black president to rule America.

Obama was not just a leader, he was an efficient, patriotic, and phenomenal leader.

Consequently, making him very influential and a good example of referent power.

Moving forward from political and business leaders, let’s consider one more example of referent power.

Taylor Swift

This is another good example of an influential person and a good example of referent power.

Tayor Swift is an American singer and songwriter with so many loyal fans (swifties as she calls them) scattered across the globe.

As a result of her talent as a singer/songwriter, her uniqueness, her charming personality, she has won the hearts of so many across the globe.

More so, she also inspires so many young people to pursue their natural gifts and talents and use them to make a difference in the world.

Thereby, influencing the lives of so many people directly and indirectly.

Consequently making her an influential person and a good example of referent power.

Other prominent people are good examples of referent power.

People such as William Buffet, Tony Robbins, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Michelle Obama, Jack Ma, Elon Musk among other great people.

This is because their lives serve as an inspiration to do great things and achieve success regardless of your financial or educational background.

Even more, their philosophy and principles of life are learned, emulated, and used as a guide to achieving success in every area of life by people all over the world.

Hence, helping them impact and influence people’s lives positively.

Now you know some of the examples of referent power.

Let’s consider the characteristics.

Characteristics Of Reference Power

Referent power meaning and examples

What are some of the behavior traits or characteristics of people with referent/reference power?

What are the personality traits of people who have referent power?

This is so you can understand what makes them distinct and unique from other people who lack influence and reference power.

Here are some of the characteristics of referent power.


Confidence is an important characteristic of referent power.

Without confidence, you can’t earn the respect and admiration of people around you.

Besides that, if you lack confidence as a leader or a prominent person, how can you inspire confidence in others and influence their overall perception of themselves.


Most influential people are people who have exercised their zeal and strong will in achieving something great for themselves despite the odds against them.

Even more, this is one of the personality traits that make people look up to them, admire them, and get inspired by them.


This is the never-give-up personality trait of most people with referent power.

On their way to the top, most successful people encounter challenges and setbacks.

However, what makes them different from people who fail along the way and give up is their resilience.

They can stay on course, doing everything to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Consequently helping them achieve success in their set goals.

Likewise, this personality trait is what most people admire in them and it is what inspires most people who are loyal to them.

Thereby, making them gain much influence on and reference and loyalty from people around them.

Creativity And Innovativeness

This is another important characteristic of people with referent power.

This is a personality trait that makes them unique and different in whatever they do.

As a result, they break into unfamiliar territories and make a name for themselves.

Thereby, helping them rise to the position of influence all over the world.

In a nutshell, their ability to come up with new ways of doing extraordinary things helps.

Consequently helping them stand out from the crowd and gain the admiration of people.

reverence leadership


Charisma means possessing a powerful presence and attractiveness.

This charisma is what makes most people with referent power attract the admiration, devotion, and loyalty of people.


To be proactive is the ability to do future planning, analyze situations, and always being prepared to tackle difficult situations.

Simply put, it is the quality of being prepared before things happen rather than waiting for things to happen.

People with referent power are very proactive in their thoughts, actions, and goals.

They don’t wait for things, rather they make things happen through their forward-thinking and future planning.

Thereby, helping them make a difference in the world, achieve great things, and attract the admiration of people.


Another important personality trait of people with referent power is their decisiveness.

They are not afraid of making tough decisions towards their goals and aspirations.

Furthermore, this personality trait is what makes them resolute in their decisions towards giving it all it takes to achieve whatever it is they set out to do.


This is one unique personality trait that helps people with referent power easily connect, listen, and relate with people around them. 

Thereby, building stronger relationships and bond with different people.

Empathy is having the ability to understand other people’s emotions.

This is a personality trait that helps people with referent power understand people better.

Consequently, making people easily open up to them and helping them impact people’s lives positively.


People with referent power are also able to stay focused on their goals and effective plans of action.

Thereby helping them achieve outstanding success in their different fields of endeavor.

What is Referent Power and How Do I Get Some


This is all about having a positive mindset.

In other words, it is about having a mindset of the positive side of things even in negative situations.

People with referent power are optimistic.

They are positive-minded about life generally and the things they do.

Thus motivating them to achieve their goals regardless of the negative circumstances around them.

Commitedness And Consistency

This is the ability to sustain dedication and continuity in whatsoever you do.

This is also a very important personality trait of most people with referent power.

Due to this personality trait, they can continuously work hard to achieve their goals.

Even more, they are consistent and committed to making their best better.

Thereby, helping them achieve outstanding success in their different fields of endeavor.


By their social status and prominent position that they occupy, people with referent power ought to be very proud.

However, they can win over the hearts of people with their humility and meekness.

Hence, the reason people will always admire them and desire to be like them.

This is because they do not allow their accomplishments to get to their heads or make them consider themselves better than everyone else.

Overall, this is not to say that people with referent power are people without flaws or weaknesses.

This just means that these are some of the characteristics or personality traits they possess that make them remarkable people worthy of reverence and emulation.

This brings to a very important point to consider which is; is referent power an inborn trait or a learnable skill?

We’ll discuss this in this next section.

Is Referent Power An Inborn Trait Or A Learnable Quality?

referent power as a learnable skill

Most people believe that leaders are born not made.

Far from that, anyone can learn to become a great leader by acquiring certain personality traits and skills.

While it’s true that natural talents are inborn, as such some people could possess certain natural skills that make them outstanding in whatever they do.

However, these natural skills still need to be enhanced with relevant knowledge that can only be learned.

Although most influential people might possess certain natural gifts and talents that make them admirable, referent power is not solely an inborn skill.

It is a learnable skill.

This is why we took time out to create this blog post.

This is so that anyone who aspires to possess referent power either as a business owner, leader, or regular individual can do so effectively.

Just as we saw with the characteristics of referent power, you can improve your personality and abilities by learning certain positive character traits.

In a nutshell, referent power is a learnable quality that can be acquired by learning certain interpersonal relationship skills.

Consequently making you a better person with admirable qualities and capable of influencing people positively through your behavior.

Moving forward, let’s consider why is referent/reference power so important.

Given the fact that referent power is so influential and powerful, certain ethics guide the use of referent power.

This is to prevent misuse or abuse of power.

Ethics Of Referent Power; The Right Way To Use It

Referent power (ethics)

When most influential people perceive they have referent power and so much influence on people, they might be tempted to use such powers negatively.

Hence, it makes sense to have certain ethics that guide how referent power is used.

Firstly what are ethics?

Ethics can be simply defined as a moral code, set of values, and beliefs that govern a person’s behavior.

Thereby, helping an individual define right from wrong behavior.

Given this, the ethics of referent power are values or codes of conduct that govern the behavior of individuals with referent power.

Here are the set of values that we would like to consider as the ethics of referent power.


As a person with referent power, people look up to you for inspiration, guidance, and sometimes validation concerning specific areas of life.

You become more or less like a role model for people who admire and respect you.

Hence, you should uphold the value of honesty and transparency in all your endeavors.

Let, there be no two-faced nature or traits around you.

More so, do not engage in shady activities for your own selfish gains.

Overall, let people know and see you for what you are and not who you pretend to be.

Consequently, helping you model good behavior and using referent power in the right way.


This means holding the values or principles of being true to your word.

As an influential leader or a prominent personality, people look up to you for inspiration.

More so, they emulate you in so many ways.

Hence, the value of integrity is something you should uphold.

Let your word be your honor.

Say what you mean and practice what you preach.

Referent Power in the Workplace


This is all about how you comport yourself wherever you find yourself.

As an individual with referent power, you directly or indirectly become a public figure.

A lot of people look up to you and by this, they’ll want to do some or most of the things you do and how you do them.

Hence, you should have a high level of self-respect.

This should be evident in your general composure and the things you do especially in public places.

Consequently helping you model good behavior, influencing people positively, and using referent power the right way.

Respect for others

Referent power gives you a lot of admiration and influence over a lot of people.

With this comes,  the feeling of self-importance, and high self-esteem can make you disrespect people.

However, you shouldn’t let this get to you and make you become arrogant and treat people disrespectfully.

Rather, develop a deep sense of respect for other people regardless of their status or background.

Thereby, helping you treat people nicely and modeling good behavior.

Good character

As an influential person who many people look up to, you should possess good character as well.

This means that your general behavior should be something positive and worthy of emulation.

This is so that you can model good behavior and influence people who admire you to also be of good behavior.

Consequently helping you use referent power the right way.

strengths of referent power

Advantages Of Referent Power

There are certain advantages tied to this kind of power and they include;

  • This kind of power helps you attract loyal followers who are ready to follow you without many questions.
  • As a business owner or leader, this kind of power makes it easy for you to inspire the desired behavior in your team or followers.
  • People will like and respect you naturally.

Disadvantages Of Referent Power

There are also downsides to this kind of power and they include;

  • It takes time to build this kind of power -it takes time and consistent efforts to win over people’s trust and respect through your actions.
  • It is also usually one of the most difficult kinds of power to uphold -as a leader and role model to many, any negative behavior or little behavior could make your reputation questionable and diminish the respect people have for you.
  • Referent power can have a negative effect on followers, especially when they follow people blindly.

Now you fully understand the concept of referent power or charismatic power as it is sometimes called.

Let’s find out how to develop it.

Developing Referent Power; Tips On How To Be An Influential And Powerful Leader

Developing referent power either as a leader in the organization or someone seeking to be an influential personality is all about upholding building charisma and character.

Hence, here are some of the ways to develop referent power.

Keep To Your Word

how to build referent power

This is one of the ways you can develop referent power as an individual.

Either as a manager, team leader or leader in an organization always keep to your word- fulfill your promises.

Build a high level of integrity by fulfilling your promises.

If you say you’ll do something or accomplish a particular thing, do your best to fulfill it.

Constant disappointments or failure to keep your word would only give you a bad reputation.

Thereby, making it difficult for people to trust and respect you.

Hence, always follow through on every one of your promises.

Consequently, helping you develop credibility and referent power.

Lead By Example

 How Do You Build 'Referent Power'

This is another thing you must do to be an influential leader with referent power.

Either as a business leader or a leader in an organization, it’s not just enough to tell people what they should do.

In other words, not practicing what you preach.

This would only bring about hate, resentment, and anger from the people you’re leading.

As a leader, you should be willing to do exactly what you tell others to do.

Lead by example by practicing what you preach.

Consequently, helping you build integrity and referent power.

Develop Strong Interpersonal Relationship Skills

Why Do You Need Referent Power to Be a Better Leader

Strong interpersonal skills such as active listening, empathy, effective communication can also help you develop referent power.

This is because, with these kinds of skills, it becomes easy for you to understand people better and truly connect with them on different levels.

Thereby, helping you win the hearts of people naturally and making them loyal to you.

Hence, to become a more influential leader with referent power, develop or sharpen your interpersonal relationship skills.

Practice Honesty And Transparency

How people can build and use referent power

This is another important virtue that can earn you the trust and respect of people, thereby giving you referent power.

Being honest and transparent means being truthful and sincere.

It’s all about openly admitting your flaws and not shying away from the truth just to save your reputation.

Understand that nobody is perfect, as humans we are all flawed in different ways.

Hence, when you make a mistake honest about it- accept your faults, and make amends.

Thereby, helping you develop a good reputation and referent power.

Support And Respect Others

referential leadership

This is another way to earn the trust of people and develop referent power.

As the saying goes, respect is reciprocal.

If you respect people, people would respect you as well.

Hence, if you want to command more respect and reverence, genuinely respect other people.

This should show in the way you treat and relate with people.

Likewise, learn to give people support when they need it.

This would earn you their loyalty.

More so, they’ll respect you for who you are.

It mustn’t be financial support.

A simple word of encouragement when someone is feeling down or giving moral support could do.

Thus helping you develop referent power.

Be Selfless

Influential leadership

Little acts of selflessness can also help you win the hearts of people and earn their trust, especially as a leader.

To be selfless means to be genuinely concerned about other people’s welfare and interests.

Simply put, it is placing other people’s interests and wellbeing over your own selfish desires.

A leader who is genuinely concerned about the interests and welfare of his/her subordinates will earn their trust and loyalty.

This is because they’ll see you as a person who has their best interest at heart.

Thereby, making them connect with you and feel a deep sense of loyalty towards you.

Hence, be selfless in your relationship with people around you especially as a leader.

This is not to say that you should consider your desires and aspirations or forgo them totally.

It’s just to buttress the point that,  for effective leadership, the people (your subordinates) always come first.

Build Good Character 

charismatic power

One of the factors that contribute to making an individual possess referent power.

Character is the totality of an individual’s qualities or attributes.

Your character as a person determines people’s perceptions of you.

If you have bad character then, you’ll be seen as a bad or irresponsible person.

Hence, the need to build good character especially as a leader.

This is because no one would respect or follow a leader with a bad character.

You can build good character by learning and upholding certain positive values that shape who you are.

Consequently, helping you model good behavior and build referent power.


How to develop referent power

That’s all we have for you on the concept of referent power and how to have it.

Referent power is about attaining a position of influence through unique personality traits, accomplishments, and capabilities.

Anyone can have referent power if they choose to develop it.

Many people may possess certain inborn traits that make them outstanding leaders.

Thereby making them very influential

There are certain things you can do to brush up on your leadership skills.

Use these tips now to build referent power.

Who is a perfect example of referent power for you?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

We would love to hear from you.