Leadership fosters inspiration, whereas authority produces obligation. Authority is the supervisory responsibility to direct, decide and delegate. It is sometimes misused for personal gain.
In contrast, leadership establishes goals or visions and inspires people to achieve them—a process accomplished through influence. Those influenced positively will follow willingly (the essence of true leadership).
Leadership success depends on knowing how to influence people and breed a desire to follow (as opposed to trying to mandate it via formal authority). Following a leader is a choice based on desire; trying to mandate it is misguided and ultimately doomed to fail.
Influence is the foundation of leadership, according to Clay Scroggins, author of How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority (Zondervan, 2017). "Leaders who consistently leverage their authority to lead are less effective in the long term than leaders who leverage their influence,” he writes. Again, human behavior is the driving factor.
While almost everyone has the ability to influence others and lead in some capacity, many leaders fail to be inspirational and fall back into their default position: an insistence on asserting their authority. Numerous research studies confirm that positional authority does not guarantee effective leadership. In fact, strongly wielded authoritative power has led to some of the poorest leadership outcomes.
Your ability to influence people will determine whether you can lead those who report to others. Work on mastering the following principles to increase your sphere of influence.
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