Influence trumps authority


Influence trumps authority in that an ineffective leader may have the authority to give orders, but without generating substantial goodwill, those orders execute poorly. Only by influencing others can a modern working professional get their way.

Inspired by: Jocelyn Davis, The Art of Quiet Influence (2019)


Let’s start by comparing the ineffective leader to a con artist.

A con artist has no authority over others, but they get what they want by influencing those others. An ineffective leader may have all the authority in the world. But without influence, their orders risk falling on deaf ears.

There was a time when the mere notion of authority was enough for a leader. That was a time when fear was pervasive. Followers feared retribution from not following orders – of losing their jobs or worse.

I don’t think that way of operating is as effective in the modern working world. Handing down orders may affect only the truly fearful among your people. The rest of them will follow through with varying degrees of care.

It’s another story if you influence them towards your way. By getting emotional and logical buy-in, you will pave a stronger path forward.