Leadership is NOT Influence.

First, leadership is a relationship between follower and leader. It is not about power, authority, or influence, although these are not unimportant elements. For example, someone holding a gun to your head may be influencing your behavior (!), but very few people would call that leadership. Others may insist you do something because they’re the boss, they’re in charge, and you’re going to get hammered if you don’t obey. These are examples of power-wielders, not leaders. Leadership is a relationship you have with someone else. Leadership  has to do with the motivations and personal values of the leader and the follower coming together and elevating the whole leadership enterprise to a new and different plane, as leadership scholar James MacGregor Burns pointed out in his classic book Leadership.

Second, leadership is about change of some kind, usually requiring a change in attitude and behavior on behalf of both the leader and the follower. Change can be a difficult animal to wrestle with. Most of us perceive change as resulting in some kind of loss on our part: loss of influence, or authority, or control, or maybe just the loss of being comfortable with a stable situation. People don’t resist change, we resist what we think change will cost us. Its one of the reasons we need leaders. Leadership is relational, messy, often volatile, and absolutely essential.


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