There is a very specific reason why my personal mission references helping emerging leaders gain influence, not power. One truly is better than the other.
Power is temporary, dependent on coercion, and can lead to resentment. It’s limited and feels detached. It is granted to people based on their positions, whether it be CEO, President, or Parent.
Past a certain point, to retain power, one has to employ force and intimidation, which plants deeply negative feelings within those who are on the receiving end.
Influence stands the test of time, it relies on trust, and it leads to a culture of respect and trust. It is unlimited and feels much more personal. As someone looking to build influence, the focus should be on persuading the beliefs and actions of others.
To retain influence, one has to continually foster relationships, build trust, and humbly engage with those who don’t agree. The most incredible part is, unlike with power, the effect of influence remains even when the individual is gone.
Expiration versus Endurance
The power that leaders have eventually expires – either through legal or violent means. In the U.S., we are lucky enough to have a system in which a president peacefully relinquishes their power when their term is complete. In countries without this system, however, leaders are often thrown off of their throne by angry citizens with weapons.
The influence that leaders yield, however, does not always expire. It’s the reason why the ideas of great leaders remain to this day. While these people once had great power, they focused instead on developing their level of influence.
So, which do you want?