Leadership and influence – the two are so closely connected, that many individuals are unaware of the key differences. Yet, if you want to become a great leader, understanding the distinction between these two terms is imperative.
Whether you may think so or not, leadership and influence are not the same thing.
How many great leaders do you know? Would you consider them to be influential?
Or, on the other hand, have you found yourself being influenced by someone who you wouldn’t consider to be a leader?
So, what exactly is the difference?
Leadership without influence
Some leaders lead by their title or rank. Whether it is earned or not, their authority to lead has been given to them in some form or another and while holding a title can give a person the right to lead, it doesn’t automatically give the ability to influence.
Think of a leader as being someone in charge of a group of people, organisation or project. Not all influencers have a title, yet they can affect another person’s behaviour and help them develop. Now, a leader who can influence, such as a highly accomplished life coach, can really make a difference in the lives of others.
A symbiotic relationship exists between influence and leadership, as both play off one another. An influencer may conceive an idea that no one thought of before. It’s then the job of the leader to work out how to utilise available resources, in order to turn the intangible idea into a tangible reality.
Influence without leadership
Leadership is usually visible. Whether it’s a boss, a parent, or anyone in a position of authority, you will see their actions at work. Influence, however, can run deeper. Its impact can be felt, but not necessarily understood.
The best influencers aren’t always leaders either. Think about an artist whose work has really impacted you. Then think about marketers, who are influence experts…They know just how to get you buying a product. While their level of influence is at times high, without leadership, it’s most likely to be fleeting.
And what about that person you go to for advice, inspiration or guidance? Despite not being in a position of authority, this individual has an incredible power to influence (often without even realising it). This power has nothing to do with a leadership position, but will have been built up through years of trust and the ability to see circumstances with a wise perspective.
What makes a leader great?
We are all influencers – yes, you read right. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your thoughts and actions shape the world around you.
Great leaders and business coaches are aware of the influence they have, as they have learned how to harness the power of their thinking and behaviour, in a way that reflects how they want to influence.
They have become their own masters, achieving self-awareness, allowing them to read any situation they’re in, before choosing the most appropriate beliefs, behaviours and language to help them achieve their desired outcome. They know where they have the greatest level of influence and are able to build upon it, as their overall influence continues to grow.
So, how do you become a great leader? Firstly, it’s important to recognise the difference. From there, if you consistently put yourself in leadership positions, while learning to harness your influence, you will find yourself making incredibly positive changes in the people around you.