Coercion in Leadership

**As I progress through my doctoral program I will be placing some of my work on here. Please feel free to engage with me in the learning process to seek greater depth in understanding of leadership, scripture, and life.

Leadership is a challenging endeavor and not a discipline to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there are more leadership positions needing filled than quality leaders available to fill them. Also, the incredible pace of the workplace expects leaders at all levels to exercise organizational leadership beyond their capabilities. This is where coercion enters the picture of leadership.

Leadership, or power, is “the capacity or potential to influence.” (Northouse, 2013, p.9) which can come in many different forms. When a leader is not skilled in the art of leadership, or does not take the time to lead artfully, coercion becomes an inviting avenue to exercise power. According to Merriam-Webster (2004) coercion is “to make (someone) do something by using force or threats”, which eliminates the necessity to artfully lead, but simply make followers do what is expected. According to Northouse (2013), coercion influences against the will of the followers through different penalties and rewards. (p.12) So, a leader who is unskilled, inexperienced, or pressed for time can easily slip into a habit of coercion to make followers do what is expected to meet the desired results.

This, however, is not how leadership styles such as authentic leadership work. In fact, according to Bill George, coercion is a violation of the authentic leadership model and violates three of its characteristics: strong values held by the authentic leader, the trusting relationships the authentic leaders seeks to establish with others, and the self-discipline the authentic leader imposes on themselves based on values. (Northouse, 2013, p. 258) The use of coercion on followers is in direct contrast to these three characteristics. In fact, coercion can be considered unethical for a leader to use outside of extreme situations. (Powers, 2007, p. 125) So, students of the art of leadership should not resort to the use of coercion.


Merriam-Webster. (2004). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Revised edition.). Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster Mass Market.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Powers, P. (2007). Persuasion and Coercion: A Critical Review of Philosophical and Empirical Approaches. HEC Forum, 19(2), 125–43.

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