Stakeholder analysis: power, legitimacy and urgency

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The aim of this analysis is to determine “who or what really counts”. Although developed in a business context, the analysis has broader relevance.

Power, legitimacy and urgency are defined as follows:

Power: “A relationship among social actors in which one social actor, A, can get another social actor, B, to do something that B would not have otherwise done.” The bases for power can be “Coercive-force/threat”, “Utilitarian-material/incentives” and/or “Normative-symbolic influences”.

Legitimacy: “A generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, definitions.” The bases for legitimacy can be individual, organizational, and/or societal.

Urgency: “The degree to which stakeholder claims call for immediate attention.”

Stakeholders are then mapped according to how they rate on each attribute. The diagram below describes the names given to each kind of stakeholder. The combination of attributes can be used to determine how to interact with any stakeholder. It is worth noting that these attributes can vary over time, so that the appropriate interactions can also change over time.


stakeholder typology - attributes present

Reference: Mitchell, R. K., Agle, B. R. and Wood. D. J. (1997). Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts. Academy of Management Review, 22, 4: 853-886. URL:

Posted: June 2016
Last modified: June 2016

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