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Section 3: Additional Considerations for Navigating Difficult Conversations 

Considering Power in Mentor/Mentee Relationships


Difficult conversations between mentors and mentees are always challenging. This is in part because of power differentials inherent in mentor/metee relationships. Power is when one possesses control, influence or authority over others. While there are many different theories and approaches naming and categorizing power differentials, we will use the work of French and Raven (1959), two of the most widely cited scholars in the field of social power, to guide our thinking about power differentials in mentoring relationships.  


French and Raven assert all power can be classified as either positional or personal. Positional power results from a person’s position within a given context. In schools this might be a team, a coaching role, an administrative position, etc... 


Positional power can be  

  1. Legitimate power ​​(formally recognized power resulting from a role, position, or office)

  2. Reward-based power (power to provide incentives because of one's role)

  3. Coercive power (power that results from a leader's ability to punish, threaten, or cause fear)


Power can also be personal and given to an individual by others. 


Personal power can be 

  1. Referent (power resulting from one's ability to inspire or from respect)

  2. Expert (power resulting from deep and rich knowledge)

  3. Informational (power resulting from having information others need)

  4. Connection (power based on relationships to others)

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Phase 4

Independent Phase

Phase 5

Internship Closure

Learn More


To learn a bit more about each of these forms of power, watch this brief video, "French and Raven's Bases of Power," which describes six of the seven forms of power. 

Permission to use content above granted, 2022

Pause & React

Directions: Consider the mentor/mentee relationships below and the seven types of power.

Use the chart below to:

1) brainstorm examples of the power dynamics or

2) indicate why each type of power might exist for each relationship


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