Influence as a Leader
What is influence and what is the difference between influence and power?
That’s an important question.
It’s important to understand the distinction and the differences between these two concepts because it will ultimately affect and shape the trajectory of your life as a leader, as an influencer, and as somebody who is a mission-driven messenger making a positive impact in the world.
We should start with my definition of influence.
From Rory Vaden’s dictionary of definitions, to me, influence is very simple.
Influence is simply the ability to inspire action.
The ability to inspire action.
If I can influence myself, then that means I can coach myself. I can talk to myself. I can create plans for myself that inspire me to take action. That inspire me to move. That inspire me to overcome procrastination.
A lot of my early writing and in my career, with my Take the Stairs book and my Procrastination on Purpose book, were all about overcoming procrastination because procrastination and indulgence is the thing that holds us steady.
It’s the thing that holds us stagnant. It’s the thing that holds us stuck. That holds us back.
And so, if I’m influencing myself, I am able to inspire myself to take action.
If I’m influencing another person which we also refer to as sales or persuasion, then it’s the same thing. I’m able to inspire them to take action.
If I am influencing a team, then that is leadership. I am inspiring a small group of people to take action.
If I’m influencing a community, we call that personal branding, which is moving a whole group, a large group of people, to take some action in their life.
That’s what influence is- the ability to inspire action in yourself, in another person, in a small group or a large group, ultimately, in the world.
But how is that different from power and what is the concept of power?
It’s interesting because this takes me back to my undergraduate work. And one of the most popular classes that I took, as a student at Denver University (DU) or ‘Dollars Unlimited’ as I often say, was, at that time, a class called Money, Sex and Power.
And one of the reasons why I think it was one of the most popular classes is because if you’ve ever heard us talk about the Five Title Tests, the class title, Money, Sex and Power, is a great title. But the work in the class was that we studied a lot about power and people like Machiavelli where the ends justify the means, etc. And we looked at what power is.
Through the course of my years as an academic, having studied Accounting as an undergraduate and getting an MBA in Leadership and Management, I spent a lot of time looking at leadership, influence, and power. It’s really been my whole life.
What is the Definition of Power?
To me, the difference between power and influence is very subtle.
In Rory Vaden’s dictionary of definitions, it’s only a one-word difference.
See, I would say influence is the ability to inspire action.
I would say power is the ability to force action, right?
So that’s the difference.
The difference is inspiration versus force.
Force is I make you do something. Somebody that has a gun to your head, somebody that is in a position of authority can make you do something either through physical force or through mental force of intimidation.
A boss has power, right? A CEO has power. A politician has power. They can force things to happen to some extent.
But the way the world is moving, it is moving away from power and it is moving towards influence. I think it is fascinating and I love it. I’m, for the most part, excited about this direction and the future of the world.
The influence is the ability to inspire action, not to force action, right?
A police officer can force action. A judge can force action. A boss or a parent can force action.
What is Inspiration?
What is really the mastery level of influence is not to just force action, but to inspire action.
When I force action, I’m making you do something. When I inspire action, I am drawing action out of you.
The word ‘inspire’, in biblical terms, means to breathe life into. That’s what the word inspire means.
It’s beautiful. This idea that I would breathe life into something. I’m not forcing something.
I’m breathing life into it.
I’m breathing life into a vision, into a possibility, into a goal, into an idea, into a company, or into some life change, into some action. That is what inspiration is to breathe life into it.
It’s not that I’m forcing it. It’s that I’m empowering it. I am calling it forth. I’m helping to birth it, to fan the flames, but I don’t make it happen.
Influence is much harder than power.
It’s much harder to acquire influence because power is something that you have to give me.
Once I’m in power, whether I force my way there, voted or allowed in, or you choose to believe that I am in a position of power, then I have said control over you.
But influence is different.
Influence is something that you have to grant me and not just to grant me once, but you have to grant me every time I talk to you, every time I see you, every time we have a conversation, every time we have an idea.
To take the Rent Axiom from Take the Stairs where I said success is never owned. Success is only rented and the rent is due every day.
Well, that’s how influence is. Influence is never owned. Influence is only rented. And the rent is due every day.
Power is a term that you have for four years if you’re a politician or 18 years if you’re a parent. Or while you’re wearing a badge, if you’re a police officer or why you have the job title, if you’re the manager at work.
Power is something that has some set amount of time with it. But influence has never owned. Influence is rented and the rent is due every day.
And whether people choose to give you influence is dependent upon your ability to inspire healthy, positive, encouraging, uplifting action for them.
So that’s the difference between inspiration and power. By definition, it’s only one word.
The ability to force things to happen is power.
The ability to inspire action is influence.
But what I would suggest is that you can be both and it’s not bad to be both, but what you really want is influence.
You want the ability to facilitate things to happen, to call out the best and other people, and to call out the best in yourself.
So go out into the world and grow your influence.
Tell me in the comments, what is the first step you will take to grow your influence?