Leaders vs. Influencers


I have been a student of leadership ideas for most of my life...I used to read every leadership book I could find, though I don't anymore. As I have watched, learned and led, I have discovered something very interesting. Most prominent leadership gurus like Maxwell would define leadership AS influence. I don't think so anymore. I think that there are "leaders" and there are "influencers" and the two are unique and different.

  • Not every leader is an influencer: The most common understanding of a leader is someone that is leading something or someone(s) and people are following. But very often this is "positional" leadership and people HAVE to follow, whether they WANT to or not. In most arenas of life, you don't get to chose your leader or whether you actually want to follow them. The rules are set. Fall in line. As a result, your body follows, but your heart doesn't. This might be "leadership" but it's not true influence that shapes the follower. Not ever leader is an influencer. You already know that because most of us have been under a leader where we had limited interest in their influence
  • Not every influencer is a leader: Influence is different. We have the power to chose who influences us, whether they are our leader or not...and often they aren't. We innately feel something flowing from an influencer that we WANT and we open ourselves up to receive it...even pursue it. They can be anyone...not necessarily in leadership over you or in "leadership" at all. I can think of 4 different people that have had major influence in my life that weren't in positional leadership over me at all. In fact, a few of them just know their lot in life is to drop back and influence the leaders that people follow and listen to... and they do it very intentionally. They make their voices heard through another. It's a choice to influence the leaders instead of lead the followers. Not every influencer is a leader. 

You might say "well those influencers ARE leading"...but I feel that the word leadership has been so overused and overstressed and misunderstood that it's helpful to find new language...language that more accurately describes reality. 

Think into this. Who is leading you? Who is influencing you? What do you discover?