There are two types of leaders. We’ve all experienced both types at some point in our careers. There is the leader who solely relies on his or her position to lead but doesn’t know how to effect real change. Then there is the true leader who knows how to influence people, not relying on a title to determine their influence. Understanding the types of leadership – position vs influence – will make all the difference between filling a role and effecting actual change.
Does Position Equal Influence?
Just because someone is promoted or hired into a leadership position, doesn’t mean he or she is someone who can influence others to carry out a vision.
We like the way Ralph Nader sums this up, “A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. They inspire the power and energy to get it done.”
Nader points out that it takes more than just being in a position of influence to get something done. A leader must be able to influence others. He must get them inspired about getting something done. You can be in a position of power, but if you are not able to help others catch the vision and motivate them to get there with you, you are merely in a position without any real influence.
What is positional influence? Positional influence is the power or influence that is tied to a title or position. It carries only as much influence as the position carries, but it doesn’t mean that the person with the title has the ability to influence. In short, positional leadership alone is very limited.
Is Leadership Just Another Word For Influence?
It is easy to say that leadership is another word for influence or the ability to carry influence, but it is not. You can easily be put into a position of influence without any influencing taking place. Said another way, we can all think of examples where someone’s leadership has not borne out any real change. If the results aren’t there, then no positive influence is present.
Merriam-Webster defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” It is clear that positional leadership does not necessarily mean a leader is able to have the needed effect on others to drive results. Leadership and influence are two very different things.
A positional leader will lead from their position of power, not out of influence stemming from their character and leadership qualities. Positional leaders often lead in a selfish way, not considering team members and relationships. They can lack collaboration skills, courage and creativity. Moreover, they are merely leading from the power that comes from their position. This speaks to the difference between influence and positional leadership- two very different types of leadership.
Positional Leadership Drawbacks and Benefits of Leading By Influence
A positional leader can create a disengaged team. Employees can feel like they are part of a hierarchical environment with little insight into why they should work hard to achieve the organization’s goals. Needless to say, unhappy employees usually don’t stay in their positions for very long.
Power and influence in leadership involve collaboration, relationship building, hard work, optimism, passion and respect. These leaders create cultures where employees want to emulate and follow their leadership. They create environments where people want to come to work each day. Employees under leaders of influence are motivated to succeed and achieve results. They also learn how to lead by influence themselves. This is a much stronger type of leadership.
It’s possible to be a positional leader without influence. It’s also possible to have real influence without the position. The sweet spot for any organization is to have a leader with both power and influence in leadership.
Leadership Is a Process
Let’s say you were recently asked to move into a leadership position in your company. You are coming into the position ready to lead with both power and influence in leadership. You have to decide what type of leadership you will exercise.
Here are a few things to do to best impact your organization as a strong leader with influence:
Hire to Your Weaknesses
A great leader knows what they do well, and more importantly, what they don’t. If you aren’t organized, be sure to have someone on your team that can help you stay on top of things. If creativity is not your strong suit, make sure you have a right-brained wing man. You are human. Accepting this and having the humility to know where you can grow will make all of the difference in your future success and the success of your organization.
Set the Vision
Work with your employees to set the vision and the path to get there. Leading by influence means that you’re not afraid of others ideas, and your team can contribute their ideas to the overall vision. Then, you work with the team to shape those ideas into a vision that aligns with where you want to take your team. This process allows your team to automatically have buy-in to the vision, because they contributed to it.
Your team is your greatest asset and protecting and empowering them is key. You will have to manage your own world, but never at the expense of your employees. Employees know when you have their best interests at heart and will work hard to help you achieve a vision when they know you have their backs.
Communicate Clearly and Regularly
A positional leader tends to keep information to themselves, because they want to maintain control. Unfortunately, this type of leadership contributes a detriment of clear and timely communication. As a leader of influence, you should ensure you communicate regularly with your employees. Even over communicate! They should understand why their work matters and how their work specifically contributes to company goals.
What Type of Leader Do You Want to Be?
John Maxwell says, “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others”. Positional leadership is only a start. But without leading by influence, you and your organization will not see the results you seek.
Leadership skills can be enhanced and grown. It is up to you to identify your weaknesses by asking others for feedback and doing all you can to improve. We all have areas of weakness. Identifying them and addressing them even when it’s uncomfortable is what it takes to move from good to great in leadership.
Being a leader with influence involves focusing on people and goals; not on just one or the other. Your vision is much more achievable when you have the focus of a team with you. True leaders with the ability to influence and inspire the people they are leading are the ones who create the most impact in the world and the workplace.