School Principals’ Power Sources in Secondary Schools in Eastern Ethiopia: Analytical Essay

  • Words 2716
  • Pages 6
Download PDF


Power and influences are a major area of interest within the field of educational leadership. Leadership is an ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of an organization. As a result, Fahad (2015) stated that “a leader uses power as a means of influence to attaining institutional goals”. Hence, power and leadership are different sides of the same coin idioms exactly tell us similarities between them. Likewise, Aslanargun (2011) has explained that “leadership is a power relationship that exists between leaders or followers and a process that involves utilizing power to influence others”. Lunenburg (2012) underlined that “alike leadership, power involves a relationship between two people since power is the leader’s ability to influence others”. Therefore, power is the ability to influence someone else attains desired institutional aims (Nelson & Quick, 2012). So, a leader couldn’t influence others without having power. In brief, influence, an authority, and hierarchy are the most prevalent concepts that similarities and distinctions have been underlined below by Aslanargun (2011):

Power is the potential of “A” to influence “B” despite resistance. Influence is the result of “A’s” changeable act over “B’s” behavior. An authority is bound to position in an organization generally power and legitimacy based. Control is compliance behavior that “A” manages over “B”. It is the success of the influence process. Hierarchy refers to the formal structure of an organization and emphasized the structure, roles, and division of labor (p, 7).

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

Thus, it is possible to précis as power represents the capability to get someone to do something; influence is the exercise of that power. Another way of stating the distinction is to say that power is the potential to influence, while influence is power in action. Authority is the right to influence others in specified ways, and it is an important basis for the influence of formal organizations (Yukl, 2010). Power and influence behavior can be regarded as separate constructs, even though they are interrelated in complex ways (Lunenburg, 2012).

Thus, therefore, power is the leader’s ability to influence others, since then from where do school leaders bring this power to influence teachers, school community Students? Where does this power come from? What gives a person or group influence over others? Power can be derived from many sources. Research by (Yukl & Falbe 1991 cited Yukl, 2010) showed that there are two types of power (positional power which includes potential influence derived from a legitimate authority, control over resources and rewards, control over punishments, control over information, and control over the physical work environment. Secondly, Personal power that includes potential influence derived from task expertise, and potential influence based on friendship and loyalty).

Table1:1 Different Types of Power

Position power Personal power

Legitimate Power Information Power

Referent Power Ecological Power

Reward Power

Expert Power

Coercive Power

Source: Yukl (2010)

As respect to the power sources which principals mostly obtained, Yukl (2010) identified as potential influence derived from a manager’s position in the organization is called position power, and it includes legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, information power, and ecological power. Potential influence derived from the characteristics of the person who occupies a leadership position is called personal power, and it includes expert and referent power.

Pertaining to power sources of leaders mostly used, different findings of study revealed that an effective leader rely more on personal power than on positional power (Yukl, 2010). Nevertheless, position power is still important, and it interacts in complex ways with the personal power to determine a leader’s influence on subordinates. The personal sources of power are more strongly related to employees’ job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance than are the organizational power sources (Lunenburg, 2012). Real leaders are likely to use power in a subtle, careful fashion that minimizes status differentials and avoids threats to the target person’s self-esteem (Yukl, 2010). Thus, the various sources of power should not be thought of as completely separate from each other (Lunenburg, 2012).

Specifically, school principals applied different power sources in different circumstances and different situational factors. For instance, most of the power studies found that legitimate, reward and coercive power were inconsistent, and the correlations with criteria were usually negative or non-significant rather than positive (Yukl, 2010). Legitimate power is alleged to have been the first type of power and if it is overused, it may result in dissatisfaction and resistance if not supported by expertise. If a leader only relies on legitimacy will possibly face resistance (Singh et al, 2009). It has been found that expert and referent powers have a substantial influence on all interactive groups, that formal power influences subordinate only, and that there is little or no influence of reward and coercive-penalty-powers on outside groups in developed organizations (Singh et al, 2009).

Regards to behaviors of leaders could easily be internalized and it leads to compliance (Singh et al, 2009). However, the results from most of the power studies may be biased due to attributions, social desirability, and stereotypes. For any type of power, the size of the range may vary, but in general referent power will have the broadest range. Due to these biases, the importance of less socially desirable forms of power such as rewards and coercion may be underestimated (Yukl, 2010). Reward power could directly influence performance in the short run if it is overused subordinate could have the feeling of dissatisfaction or manipulation (Singh et al, 2009). Coercive power has a temporary effect on subordinates and mostly causes side effects such as fear, revenge, prohibition, and alienation (Singh et al, 2009). The more legitimate the coercion is, the less it will reduce resistance and decreased attraction.

Pertaining to school principals’ influencing process, tactics and outcome of the influence over the subordinates, and to be effective as a leader, it is necessary to influence people to carry out requests, support proposals, and implement decisions (Yukl, 2010). Some general types of influence tactics that differ in terms of their purpose include impression management tactics, political tactics, proactive tactics, and reactive (or resistance) tactics (Yukl, 2010). As a result, it is clear that influence is a destination of the power process; it is a leaders’ act to transform the behaviors of others and a kind of influential capacity in an organization (Aslanargun, 2011). Any tactic can fail if it is not used in a skillful, ethical way, or it is inappropriate for the influence objective and situation.

Investigating the school principals’ power sources and influences is a continuing concern within the field of educational administration in Ethiopian secondary schools, yet there is very little research that includes their perspective. However recent a few studies for example by Mitchell, (2015:330) revealed that “principals can play a key role in influencing school community members and other stakeholders to participate in infrastructural development and promoting quality education”. Despite the importance of school leadership, there remains a paucity of evidence on principals in Ethiopia, the overriding concern is quantity over quality (Tesfaye Semela, 2011), with principals facing more pressure to expand and maintain enrolment figures than reach student learning targets. Among countless problems for deteriorating education quality in Ethiopian secondary school principals related problems, as stated by Belay and Melaku (2019), “most of the respondents agree that the achievement in gross enrolments is good but in quality, at a low rate and has learning achievement in education system remains unacceptably low due to poor school leadership ”.

One of the greatest challenges school principals according to Mitchell (2015:338) a fatalistic picture for school principals “they lack the necessary autonomy to manage budgets, procure textbooks or determine important issues such as teacher recruitment and training”. Utmost challenges for this may be school principals couldn’t aware of his/ her sources of power and influencing process. Second, school principals ‘ appointment-related problems were indicated by Mitchell,. (2012:5), “school principals are not voted, but rather they are politically appointed” This is due to the in the past, there were no formal qualification requirements for principals, who were elected to the post by colleagues (Abebayehu 2005). Belay and Melaku (2019:7) emphasized “who takes the responsibilities for the failure of the quality of school leadership? The respondents’ response shows that the government should the first place”. Another main challenge faced by many schools is the school principals’ improperly excising power and authority over subordinates (2019). Regarding power uses and influences of school principals, (Mitchell, 2012:12) “school principals applying bureaucratic system and demonstrate mostly a power-coercive approach, formal, and hierarchical authority structure.

Thus, therefore, this study can it address the following research gaps. First, there has been no detailed investigation of the mentioned concern as stated by (Mitchell, 2012:12), “the role of principals in educational leadership particularly proper application of power and influences is a vast field of study, yet little been written from the perspective of Ethiopia”. Thus, therefore, this indicated the existence of little knowledge in the areas of the study this then the existence of lack of clarity. Second, the impact of education expansion on quality of secondary education is understudied, particularly for school leadership. As Mitchell (2015: XXX) clearly stated that “in the last 20 years the Ethiopian education system has rapidly expanded” However, despite this expansion, the rapid growth over the past decades has overburdened the system and created a slew of new problems, such as funding shortages, and a deterioration of quality due to misuse of power and abuse via the influence of subordinates. The rapid expansion has been accompanied by concerns for the quality of schooling (MoE 2008), which the Ethiopian government has sought to address through policies for decentralization, community participation, teacher and school leader professional development, and textbook production (MoE 2008). Thus, this study provides new insights into powers sources and influences of school principals and its implication on education quality.

This paper attempts to examine the school principals’ power sources, and influencing tactics, processes and outcomes in secondary schools in Eastern Ethiopia. Hence, this study was guided to answer the following basic research questions:

  1. What are sources of power that school principals are mostly used?
  2. Is there any a statistically significant difference among teachers, principals, and supervisors in their perception of principals’ power sources about their position, sex, service years and academic qualification?
  3. What kind of tactics that school principals are applying to influences subordinates?
  4. What is/are a reason/s for compliance of subordinates do carry out school principals’ requested action?
  5. What outcomes are observed among subordinates for the influences of their school principals over them?

Context and Review of Literature

Types of Power Bases

Most of the scholars identified that there are two broad types of power-positional power and personal power. Potential influence derived from a leader’s position in the organization is position power, and it includes legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, information power, and ecological power whereas, the characteristic of the person who occupies a leadership position is personal power, and it includes expert and referent power Yukl, 2010). Positional power indicated that reinforcement and punishment that is contingent on the agent’s formal roles in organization; personal power mostly depends on charisma, expertise, and information that is based on characters of agents. The detail of each power base and sources presented herewith.

Sources of Power

Legitimate Power

Most of the scholars this sources of power as power in which derived from the position itself, and it stemming from formal authority over work. It is clearly assigned by written or verbal contract, and it outlines the manager’s responsibilities, and based upon this sanctioned, authorized, and exalted position (Singh et al, 2009). This refers to a person’s ability to influence others because of the position within the organization that person holds. The amount of legitimate power is determined by one’s scope of authority. Higher level managers usually have more authority than lower-level managers and vice-versa is true (Yukl, 2010).

Reward Power

It originated based on a person’s ability to reward a follower for compliance. Reward power is the ability of the manager to confer or withhold rewards such as money, privileges, promotion, or status which, in itself, carries formal power (Singh et al, 2009). It is mostly derived from control over tangible benefits, and if what a manager is offering as a reward has no value to an individual, it will not likely influence behavior (Yukl, 2010).

Coercive Power

This is the opposite of reward power since the source of power is not controlling rewards but punishments. A leader’s coercive power over subordinates is based on authority over punishments, which varies greatly across different types of organizations (Yukl, 2010). Coercive power is predicated entirely upon fear: it makes the subordinate believe that he may be deprived of something if he does not comply (Singh et al, 2009). Leaders’ coercive power usage in organization could not only directly include punishment such as to arm, shoot, fire out but it can be indirectly that to cancel the rights such as additional pays, day off (Yulk, 2010).

Referent Power

Referent power is derived from the desire of others to please an agent toward whom they have strong feelings of affection, admiration, and loyalty. It is a relationship whereby somebody is so respected and admired that people will accept subordination based on this affection that people have towards him (Smith & Hains, 2012). Thus, shared identity, personality personification, hero worship, shared culture, or idolization is some of the sources of referent power (Singh et al, 2009). Referent power is an important source of influence over subordinates, peers, and superiors, but it has limitations. Thus, an advantage of holding referent power is that it can lead people to do things that may not result in a tangible reward; reward comes instead from the relationship with the charismatic person.

Expert power

As most scholars agreed that power arises from a person’s expertise, knowledge, or talent. It refers to a situation in which a target complies with a power holder’s request, because the target perceives the power holder as being someone with superior knowledge (Aslanargun, 2011). Specialized knowledge and technical skill will remain a source of power only as long as dependence on the person who possesses them continues. If a problem is permanently solved or others learn how to solve it by themselves, the agent’s expertise is no longer valuable.(Yukl, 2010) .The more difficult it is to replace the expert; the greater is the degree of expert power he/she possesses. Expertise is a source of power only if others are dependent on the agent for advice

Information Power

This type of power involves both the access to vital information and control over its distribution to others as results from a person’s position in the organization’s communication network. Control of information makes it easier for a leader to cover up failures and mistakes that would otherwise undermine a carefully cultivated image of expertise (Yukl, 2010).

Ecological Power

This power base follows from fundamental moral, Christian, and Confucian values: do unto others as you would have others do unto you (Singh et al, 2009). It focuses on a control over the physical environment, technology, organization of the work, and sometimes called situational engineering or ecological control.

Theoretical Framework

Conceptualization of power sources that are widely accepted by (Yukl,2010), position power includes potential influence derived from a legitimate authority, control over resources and rewards, control over punishments, control over information, and control over the physical work environment. Moreover, Personal power includes potential influence derived from task expertise and potential influence based on friendship and loyalty. Moreover, enormous past studies in this area has identified seven bases of power that leaders may leverage: The power of position, the power of charisma, the power of relationships, the power of information, the power of expertise, the power of punishment and the power of reward (Bal, Campbell, Steed & Meddings, 2008). Thus, the present study was worth to be studied by framing these over mentioned seven sources of power.

Subsequently, about school principals’ influencing tactics, the type of behavior used intentionally to influence the attitudes and behavior of another person is usually called an influence tactics which includes impression management tactics, political tactics, proactive tactics, and reactive tactics (Yukl, 2010). Regards, to influencing process, (Kelman 1958 cited in Yukl 2010) proposed three different types of influence processes: instrumental compliance, internalization, and personal identification. Moreover, as regards to influences outcome, one useful basis for evaluating the success of an influence attempt is whether the immediate outcome is what the agent intended, and it manifested through differentiate among three distinct outcomes such as commitment, compliance and resistance (Yukl 2010).


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.