Have you ever thought about the intersection of these three things: Leadership, Influence, and Authority? I sure have. Especially lately, as I’m embarking on a new journey to explore the aspects of becoming a business consultant. Seemingly, there is a pretty straightforward relationship between the three areas. In this post I’ll sketch out some initial thoughts on Leadership, Influence, and Authority.
In this trinity of three, there are ways that the three work together in perfect harmony. Other times, there seems to be conflict and confusion. Read on for more about the topic.
Now, before I begin, this is my initial thoughts on Leadership, Authority, and Influence. I could be right. I could be wrong.
Leadership is the act of or expression of a person who seeks to take a group of people from one place to another. Yeah, it could be a physical location as in an outdoor scenario, but in business, I think it’s less about a physical location and more about a vision or envisioned result.
The executive wants to increase sales by a certain percentage.
The CEO wants to create a new division of the company to address a new opportunity in the marketplace.
The manager wants to streamline a business process to increase efficiency.
In every instance, someone sees the way things are and sees the opportunity for growth or improvement.
Anyone can see the present and shape the future, change is not reserved only for those in management, executives, or titled leaders.
The question then becomes, how does one become a leader?
I think leadership begins with establishing yourself as a good follower first. Being a follower means, and I hate to sound blunt here, doing what you’re told. Obedience is somewhat of a perilous thing, but it demonstrates that you honor your superiors and that is the first way that you start in leadership.
You can’t be a good leader until you establish yourself as a good follower first.Jonathan Gaby
A lot of people throw around the term “servant leader”. I think that this term has been twisted and misapplied to dangerous results. But I can’t elaborate here. Maybe later.
I think it’s possible to lead without a title, but to be sure, titles sure do help establish your authority. Authority might bring you more influence too.
What is influence? I’d say Influence is the ability to get someone to do what you want them to do. It’s probably no simpler than that.
Influence is probably the wildcard in the aspect developing as a leader and my authority.
Where authority has more of a top-down approach, Influence is more like the Queen on the Chess board, you can influence up, you can influence down, and you can influence laterally.
There are a couple ways you can grow your influence. You can borrow influence from others who have them, by asking someone with influence for their help. John Maxwell defines this in his Laws of Leadership book The Law of E.F. Hutton.
Over time, you will grow your influence and not need others’ influence. You’ll have your own.
Influence could be a little sleazy though, and frankly manipulative. There could be a dark side to having influence.
How to build your own influence? I think anyone builds influence by doing the following:
- Be a good follower and team player when you are starting out in a company
- Work hard and be a good example of a team member
- Develop relationships all across your organization
- No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care (about them)
Influence is where personal power reigns supreme. It’s not about positional power here.
Question I have is about the difference between influence and charisma. Can you be influential without being charismatic?
Authority is positional. A team member has little authority and little positional power.
But as one climbs the ladder of rank in organizations, he/she gains authority through positional power.
How quickly things get done in an organization can have a lot to do with who wants the thing done. Have you ever noticed the speed of change in an organization when the CEO wants it versus the manager?
Authority will allow you to accomplish things, but it may be at the cost of health of the organization you work for. Driving people to the vision is far different than inspiring people towards action to a goal.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words, so here’s one for you: