Authority Without Influence Is Not Leadership

Is there a difference between authority and influence?


You might be reading this from a place of authority. You have the title, the office, the staff. You know what it means to be in charge. You’ve been given the authority to lead.

The difference between authority and influence matters most to leaders with authority because it can deeply affect their leadership — and their legacy.

In his book How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge, Clay Scroggins writes, “Influence has always been, and will always be, the currency in leadership.”

Authority without influence is not leadership … it’s the power to boss people around whether they like it or not. The authority you’ve been entrusted with allows you to cultivate the influence you need to lead people well — if you’re intentional.

Authority without influence is not leadership Click To Tweet

In his TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”, which is also quoted in Scroggins book, Simon Sinek says: Many people at the top of organizations are not leaders. They have authority, but they are not leaders. And many at the bottom with no authority are absolutely leaders.”

You don’t need authority to lead, but you do need influence. Which means the authority you hold can often hinder your leadership if you’re not careful.

By definition, authority is “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”

By definition, influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

Which sounds more like leadership to you? And which do you think will get you farther?

There are a lot of ways to cultivate influence within your authority position. I think a good rule of thumb is to think about the kind of leader you respond best to.


Doe he/she:


  • Use his/her title in arguments to get their way
  • Refuse to pull their own weight
  • Not take other people’s opinions into consideration when making decisions
  • Not prioritize your personal and professional growth


Or does he/she:


  • Lead with humility, never pulling the “I’m in charge” card.
  • Practice what they preach and work hard
  • Prioritize collaboration and allow opportunities for everyone to contribute where necessary
  • Highlight the importance of personal and professional growth of team members


Authority is easy but not effective. Influence takes work, but leads to successful leadership and teams. Which will you choose to lean into this week?

Authority is easy but not effective. Influence takes work, but leads to successful leadership and teams. Click To Tweet




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