What is Coercive Power?

Definition: Coercive power is an ability that allows an authority figure to influence another individual to deliver a result by using fear and threats as incentive. Simply put, it is a way to influence someone to do something by using a possible punishment as a motivation.

What Does Coercive Power Mean?

Coercive power is an element of leadership. A leader has many different ways to influence the people around him and this is one method that can be employed to do so. What coercive power does is to establish a possibility of punishment if the expected result is not delivered.

By establishing an element of negative outcome for the party being influenced, fear arises as a motivation to get the task done. This particular leadership tool is often used in work contexts, for example in manager-managed relationships. By using coercive power, the manager puts some pressure on the managed person. This, in some cases, will be required to get the expected result.

On the other hand, the excessive use of coercive power in any business environment might have negative consequences in terms of relationships, since a constant possibility of punishment or negative reinforcements will reduce motivation levels and it will lead to poorer results, in other words, it might turn counterproductive.


Mr. Gerard is the Marketing Manager of a company called All Men Clothing Co. The company sales men apparel through its website and social media. Mr. Gerard is in charge of supervising the Social Media Department, lead by Mr. Warren. The owners of the company recently demanded from Mr. Gerard an increase of sales coming from social media platforms.

In order to achieve this goal, Mr. Gerard approached Mr. Warren and set a goal for his department to increase sales by 10% in the next 3 months. Mr. Gerard said that if the goal wasn’t met in that period some of the people working in the department (including Mr. Warren) might lose their jobs.

The fact that Mr. Gerard established the possibility of losing the job is the main indication that he is using coercive power to achieve the goal set by the owners. By threatening the department with this, he is putting pressure on them to work harder in order to achieve this goal.

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