Power and Impacts of Gaius Julius Caesar and John Paul II Using the French and Raven's Observations on Power

Categories: Julius Caesar

Leadership is a complex concept that has been investigated and analysed by numerous experts due to its historical, political and social significance. In fact, different leadership styles and models can lead to different results, affecting political institutions, international relations, organisations, society and even the entire course of history. As Morse (2010) pointed out, power and leadership are widely considered to be intertwined as leaders are individuals who stand out for their power to influence others and drive change. Therefore, it can be inferred that in order to become a leader, one has to obtain power and be able to exert it in such a way to achieve specific goals.

With regards to the relationship between leadership and power, French and Raven (1959) identified five main sources of power which have a significant impact on how leaders obtain and use their power.

In view of these considerations, this essay will use French and Raven’s (1959) findings to determine how two world-renowned leaders, namely Gaius Julius Caesar and John Paul II, have driven change and influenced others by using their respective sources of power effectively.

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First of all, it should be noted that in spite of having lived and operated in completely different historical contexts, both Caesar and John Paul II are still widely admired for their leadership skills and personal qualities, thanks to which they have been able to achieve remarkable results. However, from an analysis of their respective leadership styles, lines of action, goals and behaviour, it can be inferred that their power came from different “sources”.

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In this regard, French and Raven (1959) pointed out that there exist five types of power, thanks to which it is possible to understand how different skills, abilities, circumstances and personal qualities can help individuals to influence others. Coercive power, for example, is usually associated with dictators, violent leaders and despots who use forcefulness, threat, penalties and even physical/psychological harm to get what they want.

This type of power revolves around coercion as its main goal is to force others to do things that they do not wish to do in order to achieve compliance. Even though coercive power may seem convenient as it allows leaders to easily accomplish great things in a short period of time, numerous studies have revealed that it is highly likely to lead to various problems, including reduced productivity, lack of motivation and dissatisfaction. (Weller, D. L. and Weller, S., 2000) Legitimate power, on the other hand, derives from one’s title and/or position and its legitimacy usually comes from another individual or a group of people who possess more power. Prime Ministers, CEO’s, managers, judges, policemen, spiritual leaders and kings are an excellent example of this kind of power, as they all owe their position to voting citizens, company directors, governments, special commissions and so forth.

As Boddy (2008) pointed out, those who possess legitimate power are also likely to have access to significant resources which allow them to persuade others by rewarding them. Therefore, it can be inferred that this kind of power depends greatly on one’s ability to grant rewards and enables leaders to obtain compliance by offering raises, bonuses, opportunities and other positive incentives. According to French and Raven (1959), expertise can also be a source of power as leaders may use their experience and knowledge to gain others’ trust and influence them. Moreover, when people perceive one’s abilities as superior or even extraordinary, it is highly likely that they will automatically give them power, regardless of whether they want it or not. For instance, doctors usually have more knowledge about the human body than their patients, which is why they are given the power to make decisions and recommendations about others’ health and lifestyle.

Referent power is the last source of power identified by French and Raven (1959) and is strongly associated with one’s charisma, charm and personal qualities. As Boddy (2008) noted, leaders who possess referent power tend to invoke ideas, values, aspirations and principles to support their proposals and to convince others to accept them. Political and military leaders who are considered as superior, role models or even deities usually possess a significant amount of referent power, which is given to them by their followers out of admiration. Considering the manner in which Caesar became a leader respected across the entire Roman Empire during the 1st century B.C., it is evident that a combination of personal qualities, charisma and expertise should be regarded as the source of his power. In fact, in spite of his patrician origins, Caesar is known as a self-made man with progressive views, great charm and a strong interest in culture. According to his biographers, his authority derived from various factors, including physical attributes, strength, strategic-thinking skills, values, past experiences and a deep knowledge of the world in which he lived. (Griffin, M., 2008)

In fact, after being deprived of his inheritance and titles by his family’s main rival, Sulla, he left Rome and joined the army to pursue a military career. After Sulla’s death, he purchased a small property in Rome and turned to advocacy, thanks to which he became known for his exceptional rhetorical skills as well as for his deep knowledge of the law. As Griffin (2008) pointed out, the victories that marked Caesar’s military career had a significant impact on his political accomplishments, which is why they should be analysed in order to determine the extent to which they allowed him to gain power and influence others. In fact, after several successful military campaigns, Caesar became quaestor in 69 BC, Pontifex Maximus in 63 BC and consul in 60 BC. (Freeman, P., 2008) During this time, he modernised the Roman legal system and approved numerous reforms with the help of his two main allies, Pompey and Crassus. (Freeman, P., 2008)

Although the Senate didn’t appreciate Caesar’s growing popularity, nothing could be done to prevent him from attacking and conquering Gaul and Britannia and defending the empire’s eastern borders. (Freeman, P., 2008) As soon as Roman citizens became aware of Caesar’s remarkable enterprises, their admiration and respect for him grew even further, thus causing the Senate and Pompey to cooperate in order to prosecute him and diminish his newly-gained power. (Griffin, M., 2008) Once again, Caesar acted like a strong and assertive leader by crossing the Rubicon and returning to Rome, where he initiated a civil war. (Griffin, M., 2008) In this regard, it should be noted that although most people in Rome appreciated the fact that Caesar had strengthened and defended the Roman Empire, he depended greatly on his troops, without which he wouldn’t have been able to challenge the Senate, defeat Pompey and become dictator. (Griffin, M., 2008) Therefore, it can be inferred that Caesar’s initial referent power was given to him by his troops, who admired his strategic thinking, bold plans, creative ways, humility, pride and attachment to his followers. (Freeman, P., 2008)

It could even be argued that Caesar’s power derived not only from his skills and qualities, but also from his ability to reward his followers, as he approved several laws aimed at protecting Roman soldiers’ interests when he ruled Rome with Pompey and Crassus. (Griffin, M., 2009) In other words, on the basis of French and Raven’s (1959) study, Caesar succeeded in influencing others thanks to a combination of referent and reward power, which he used effectively to achieve his military and political goals. Similarly to Caesar, Pope John Paul II is still widely considered as a charismatic leader who was also capable of driving significant change thanks to his hard work, personal qualities, skills and strong views. (The Poynter Institute, 2013) John Paul II, whose real name was Karol Józef Wojtyła, was born in 1920 in Poland and by the time he turned twenty, he had already lost his mother, father and brother. (Stourton, E., 2006)

Wojtyla’s biographers agree that the pain and losses that he suffered in his youth played a fundamental role in encouraging him to consider priesthood and to start attending secret courses in Krakow. (Stourton, E., 2006) He also helped several people during the German Nazi occupation of his country and formed a very negative opinion of all extremist political ideologies, including Nazism and Communism. (Pope John Paul II, 2005) After being appointed priest, he moved to Rome where he studied at the local pontifical university and returned to Poland in 1949, where he successfully earned a doctorate in theology. (Stourton, E., 2006) His academic achievements, combined with his familiarity with the Hebrew language, Judaism and other religions are among the main sources of his power, as his knowledge and expertise contributed to his ability to influence and appeal to others. (Stourton, E., 2006)

After being appointed as bishop in 1958, he stood out for his contributions and knowledge in terms of abortion, birth control, religious freedom and human dignity, which earned him a nomination as cardinal-priest. (Weigel, G., 1999) He became Pope in 1978 and, during his pontificate, he focussed on inter-faith dialogue and travelled all around the world to spread his message. (Stourton, E., 2006) His travels to Syria and other Muslim countries are among his main achievements, as he was the first pope to ever pray in a mosque and attempted to encourage Christians, Jews and Muslims to trust each other and collaborate, in spite of their different beliefs. (BBC News, 2001) He was also the first pope to ever enter the White House in 1979, when he travelled across the United States to preach human freedom, dignity and peace to American Christians. (The Poynter Institute, 2013; The National Archives, 1979)

Considering how John Paul II approached his papacy during the first years following his election, it can be inferred that his charisma and dedication to high ideas and values became evident thanks to his hard work, numerous travels and initiatives aimed at reviving the Catholic religion and improving the human condition. However, his power didn’t derive solely from his seriousness, dedication and theological knowledge, as John Paul II was also known as a dynamic, modern individual who used mass media to reach a wider audience, criticised extremist ideologies, contributed to the fall of communism and attracted followers thanks to his positive energy. This is confirmed by the fact that, in spite of his conservative views, he ensured that his message would reach people across the world, which resulted in catholic followers growing by 40% in Africa and Asia. (The Poynter Institute, 2013)

Therefore, it can be argued that his numerous practical achievements combined with his dedication to noble causes and values are the main reason why he was deemed as a strong, charismatic leader. With regards to the source of his power, French and Raven’s (1959) model suggests that John Paul II’s power has multiple dimensions, as even though it was given to him legitimately, it was acquired through personal qualities, skills and expertise. In conclusion, French and Raven’s (1959) observations about power and its various sources can help to gain a deeper understanding of the origins and characteristics of different leadership styles. In this particular essay, two different historical figures were analysed, who succeeded in driving change and influencing numerous people even though they lived in different contexts and held different kinds of power. In fact, Julius Caesar’s power was mainly military and political, whereas John Paul II’s leadership was purely spiritual. However, they both possessed qualities, skills, knowledge and experience which enabled them to gain popularity, to the extent that they are still admired and regarded as role models by numerous people worldwide.

With regards to Caesar, he possessed both referent and reward power, as not only was he appreciated for his charisma, humility, strategic mind and ability to gain his troops’ loyalty, he also used his position and political influence to approve laws which favoured the military class. As for John Paul II, his personal qualities combined with his knowledge and expertise enabled him to gain legitimate power, which he then used to promote his ideas and influence others.


  1. BBC News (2001). Pope to pray in mosque. [online] 5 March. Available at: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1203692.stm> (Accessed 11 May 2014)
  2. Boddy, D. (2008). Management: An Introduction. Essex, UK: Pearson Education
  3. Freeman, P. (2008). Julius Caesar. New York City, NY: Simon & Shuster
  4. French, J. & Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies of Social Power. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
  5. Griffin, M. (2009). A Companion to Julius Caesar. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons
  6. Morse, M. K. (2010). Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence. Westmont, IL: IVP Books Pope John Paul II (2005). Memory & Identity — Personal Reflections. London, UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  7. Stourton, E. (2006). John Paul II: Man of History. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton. The National Archives (1979). Personal Encounters. [online] Available at: <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/eyewitness/html.php?section=21> (Accessed 12 May 2014)
  8. The Poynter Institute (2013). Pope John Paul II: May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005. Riverside, NJ: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  9. Weigel, G. (1999). Witness to Hope; The Biography of Pope John Paul II. New York City, NY: Cliff Street Books/Harper Collins
  10. Weller, D. L. and Weller, S. (2000). Quality Human Resources Leadership: A Principal’s Handbook. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

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Power and Impacts of Gaius Julius Caesar and John Paul II Using the French and Raven's Observations on Power. (2021, Oct 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/power-and-impacts-of-gaius-julius-caesar-and-john-paul-ii-using-the-french-and-raven-s-observations-on-power-essay

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