Influence vs. Authority

This is a post written by J. Matthew Becker and the link to the original post is here.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard

What is your leadership style?  Do you rely on influence or authority?

I’m sure that most of us have probably experienced a leader that relies on authority to get things done. Authoritarian leaders like to micro-manage their employees. They are afraid they will be perceived as weak if everything isn’t done exactly the way they want it done. This leaves the employee feeling as though they are being treated as a child.

According to John French and Bertram Raven there are 5 Sources of Power: Legitimate, Reward, Coercive, Expert, and Referent. When you first become a manager, it is natural to feel some pressure to demonstrate that you have everything under control.  However, if your style is to issue orders and then utilize carrots and sticks to convince your employees to follow your directives, you will achieve compliance but not commitment.

True leaders are able to get their staff to commit to their vision.  This is achieved through the use of influence which comes from a mix of Expert and Referent power.  First you must be able to demonstrate some level of expertise.  You don’t have to be the best in your field.  Nor do you need to be able to do your staff’s jobs as well or better than they can.  However, you do need to have enough basic knowledge to reassure your team that they can trust your direction.

More importantly you need to possess a healthy dose of Referent power.  This power is built upon a sense of trust and respect that is cultivated by demonstrating integrity and treating your staff as adults. Taking the time to understand your employees, seeking their input, and considering the impact on them when you make decisions, will help you to develop positive relationships with them.

This does not mean that you are “soft” leader.  There will inevitably be times when they disagree with your decisions.  However, it is how you approach those decisions that make all the difference.  If you help them understand the impact of your decision they will realize that you aren’t just looking to make their life difficult.  When an employee knows that their manager has their best interest at heart, then they will truly commit themselves to the manager.