Authority without influence is like…

Cookies without sprinkles?

OK — obviously I need to find some rhymes. But the point is, many of us are confusing Authority with Influence — and Influence with Authority.

In trying to rise above the noise, many of us are claiming our expertise. But we seem to be forgetting the second step to making our claim — and that’s influence people to accept our authority on the topic.

Authority is the power, or right, of a person or organization to give orders, make decisions and enforce rules. It’s different than being an expert, despite what today’s world of entrepreneurs may think. (We’ll debate “entrepreneur” next time…) You can be an expert in a topic, but you still must learn the art of influence in order to have people accept your expertise…and then authority.

Without Influence…Authority is a Bully.

Influence is the ability to have an effect on the character, action, or behavior of someone or something. That means helping people move to into action, or open their minds to new ideas, or serve their communities in bigger ways. You can influence people in many ways. Having authority is not usually one of them — though authority is a persuasive influencer in certain settings if misused.

Put Aside Authority.

So, let’s put aside Authority for a moment and look at other ways you can be a person of influence.

Why is this important? In today’s democratization of the workplace (i.e. flat level management, co-collaboration, multi-functional teams, solopreneurs/entrepreneurs, etc) you may easily find yourself in the difficult situation of being an “unofficial lead” on a project — where you are responsible for team performance but you don’t necessarily have the authority or title that demands respect (AKA Bullying).

Enter Leadership and Influence.

The old leadership guides tell you that you must negotiate for a job title that commands authority before you accept responsibility. That’s based on the business myth that the higher you go in an organization, the more you will command respect with your title.

Let me be the one to burst the bubble, but that’s just not true. For the emerging, up-and-coming, and existing leaders…it’s time to learn to engage, influence and get results without titles.

You can aspire to positional influence, but if you rely on it, you’ll probably find that as soon as you receive the title, you’ll still be wondering why no one is listening.

Sources of Influence:

1. Expert Influence: This is the influence that is achieved with your experience, background and accomplishments.

As David Avrin states in the title of his book “It’s Not Who you Know, It’s Who Knows You”. This is especially important in small business leadership. Do not be your company’s or the world’s best kept secret.

Many women stope themselves from this type of expert influence because we are taught not to brag or be boastful. Well, let’s break that rule! Find interesting and intriguing ways to promote your accomplishments so that you can Influence through Expertise.

2. Resourceful Influence: This is having the ability to attract and use the resources you need to get your results.

One of the special needs of today’s fast paced business is the ability to function with tight budgets and minimal staff. Even though it seems that money is flowing through businesses, most organizational memory is still too focused on the last recession.

It is important to learn to influence by demonstrating that you can use company resources efficiently and effectively — but you don’t do anyone favors by being frugal. So, to escape this conundrum, you can learn to be resourceful — ask for help, don’t make the mistake of turning down introductions and resources because you are stuck in the “I’ll do it myself” more, and take time to plan. You will become a trusted manager and leader of resources.

3. Information Influencer: This influencer is tapped into the flow of what’s going on in an organization, project or industry.

Take time to seek out information about cutting edge changes before they are widely known. This includes learning about new projects and opportunities, funding trends, technology releases and out-of-the box thinkers that are relevant to the people in your life (or sphere of influence).

Giving people a peek into future trends helps them make better business decisions, have faster results and avoid the DOA (dead on arrival) products and services launch.

Over time you will become a trusted source of knowledge and ability to influence because of the information you hold.

4. Relationship Influence: The result of having a trusted and loyal team that you invest in and that invest in you. This means building great working relationships with those that rely on you and those you touch through your role.

The truth is, people invest in people. I’ve never seen a deal go through, whether it is for hiring, funding, sales or dating that is based purely on numbers. There is ALWAYS an emotional connection.

“Wow! That’s a CRAPPY idea but she’s got the numbers down…” said no one.

“Hey, I can’t stand being around him, but he’s got the skills we need,” explained Nobody.

The art of influencing through relationships is similar to “who you know” but with an emphasis on “who you know that will admit they know you!”

Relationship Influence is best summarized by Dr. Sophie Vandebroek, Chief Technology Officer with Xerox, when she said, “It’s not enough to have a bright idea. I have seen too many projects led by great, passionate people fail because they tried to be a lone influencer. You have to get the right people in the boat with you. You have to engage the entire human fabric.”

5. Positional Influence: This is the authority influence that comes with a job title, role or position of power.

Positional Influence is the most over-rated and overused form of influence. People spend entire careers working towards and waiting for the given authority, only to find that it doesn’t really work in today’s markets.


Stay away from the temptation to be a lone influencer. Fully harness the power of relationships, your accomplishments, the information you gather and the resources you have to gain credibility and help get buy-in for your ideas. You can start making your impact today, even without the job title.

And once you do achieve the job title, remember to continue using all your sources of influence. Because authority, without influence, is just being a bully.

We’ll be diving into topics like this at Camp CAS — A Summer Camp for Business Leaders. Learn to Cause Your Success. See you there? (Camp Cause And Success)
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