They’re not the same? I would say “no, they are not the same” and many other leadership experts would agree. You don’t have to be in a leadership role to be a leader. Not all managers are leaders and the foremost leader in your office may not be the manager. Leadership, as view by many, is the ability to influence others. This influence does not stop with your subordinates. To be a true leader you impart influence on your peers and highers as well.
Synonymous with influence is power. There are five types or sources of power that allow you to have influence over others. The five are reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert. The first two sources regard giving a reward or a penalty (leaving early or being “volun-told” to work late). Although these are tools to influence people, they only go so far and only work down the ladder. Legitimate power is holding a position. A manager has legitimate power but, again, that only works down. Referent power involves people being drawn to you and, thereby, they give you power, or the ability, to influence them. As an example: celebrities are able to hawk products or can influence people to vote one way or another. They have been given this power because people admire them. The final power, or way to influence, is expert power. You are the expert in your field and this influence radiates in all directions. People in higher positions refer to you – you can influence their decisions, your peers confer with you – you can influence their decisions and, finally, people who work for you know they can trust your decisions.
Having expert power is the best, in my opinion, influence to wield. You have a larger sphere of influence, you will gain referent power, your knowledge may gain you legitimate power, and you won’t have to resort to reward or coercive power. But, you do have to stay an expert, continually learning and teaching. Having influence (no matter which of the five you have) is just the beginning steps of being a leader. You need people to want to follow you.
“If I have influence, why doesn’t anyone follow me?” The influence is only the doorway, but do they respect you? Normally, people have initial respect for someone with power, especially if it is expert or legitimate. This is because they respect the knowledge or position, but, they don’t know you yet. Once they get to know you the respect can be increased or lost. How? Your character, your trustworthiness, your level of empathy, your ability to help those down the ladder from you, or your ability to communicate with your peers or those above you all affect the respect you receive.
If you are a manager and find yourself using reward or coercive power to influence those below your – you may have lost their respect and are no longer leading them. They work to gain a reward (days off = time away from you) or they work for avoidance (you leave them alone and don’t take their time away). They don’t believe in your vision, they don’t feel as part of a team moving towards a single goal, they don’t have a purpose. They just want a paycheck. At this point you are a manager, a dime a dozen. You are probably not getting the results expected and will soon be replaced by someone that can lead.
Before this happens, you need to conduct an honest self-evaluation and find the areas you need to improve. A good place to start is usually interpersonal tact. Ask yourself: “How does someone feel after I talk to them?” In the worst case they should feel neutral – no different after they interact with you than before – even if you are critical of their performance (remember, criticize the performance, not the person). However, if they walk away feeling more negative or completely try to avoid you, you may want to work on interpersonal tact – it goes a long way. But whatever you need to improve (and there may be several things) work on it diligently and track your progress.
Everyone want to follow a leader. And, everyone thinks they can manage better than someone who is just a manager. If you want to be successful; be a leader sitting in a manager’s chair. People will follow you, work for you, and your life will be easier (easier being a relative term). Being an effective leader and manager allows you time to focus your energies into other areas; areas you enjoy and areas that will get you ahead in your career. You will be recognized for your productivity and be motivated to continue performing.
This is but the tip of the iceberg.
Good Luck and be a Leader