Power, Influence, and Communications Within a Military Setting

Table of Contents


For any leader, it is vital to establish a connection with his or her subordinates in order to achieve a desirable result. There are five primary types of power that can be exercised to gain influence over others and successfully reach an objective, they include coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, and referent power (Taucean et al., 2016). These types can be separated by their source, whether it is personal or positional power (Farley, 2019). Depending on the type and the structure of the organization, the appointed leader must choose the correct mix of sources of power. In order to use personal power, a leader must build trust and close relationships between him or her and subordinates, while positional power relies on hierarchical structure and authority (Farley, 2019). These types of power nurture varied levels of motivation and morale and lead to different results. This essay discusses the role of power types within a military setting.

Main body

In my current employment position at the United States Army, several of these types of power bear the utmost importance to the success of any operation. The U.S. Army has a hierarchical organizational structure, and influence is used here to create a cooperative order among units and within each group. It is not unusual for the Army to merge management and leadership into one concept, however, by doing so, the organization limits the value of personal power (Gallagher, 2016). Gallagher (2016) argues that “understanding what management is and how it is different from leadership is made difficult in military doctrine” (p. 1). Management heavily relies on positional power, while leadership is based on personal influence (Gallagher, 2016). In this setting, it is vital to use personal power as a foundation, while applying positional authority on a global scale, and separate leaders from managers in order to create a lasting effect. Farley (2019) argues that “leaders who influence others with personal power lead by example and are the positive blueprint for others as they mature and become leaders themselves” (p. 3). Usage of personal powers is more subjective and requires a different set of skills and personality traits, and the Army acknowledged this fact relatively recently.

Communication styles depend on the situation and the hierarchical positions of interacting sides. It is essential to be able to switch between personal and positional powers depending on the operation type and the purpose of communication. For example, when explaining the mission statement, the appointed leader must use managerial skills, therefore implementing positional powers, such as legitimate and coercive. However, when a leader tries to inspire subordinates, it is crucial that his or her confidence can be transferred by means of expert and referent power, such as personal experience or mutual trust. By using different sources of influence, leaders can achieve the desired result in a more efficient way.


In conclusion, the type of power that needs to be used in a particular situation depends on the structure of the organization, the level of communication, and the hierarchical position of interacting sides. Farley (2019) concludes that integrity is vital for a leader, and it “leads to trust, trust builds influence, and influence fosters commitment” (p. 3). The organization that acknowledges the need and the purpose of each type of power is able to achieve more outstanding results and build both trust and respect among subordinates.


Farley, K. (2019). . NCO Journal. Web.

Gallagher, C. R. (2016). . Military Review. Web.

Taucean, I., Tamasila, M., & Strauti, G. (2016). . Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 221, 66-75. Web.

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