Many people frequently confuse the meaning of power and influence, often using them interchangeably. This article explores the underlying definitions of these two attributes we come across in our lives and sets out a clear message why influence is greater than power.
You must have seen interviews of celebrities where they talk about the person who held the greatest influence in their lives. Surprisingly, for a vast majority, the person having the greatest influence turns out to be either father or mother. But fathers and mothers are certainly not very powerful, are they?
This means power and influence are two different entities all together, contrary to common perception. Though it appears as if the person with authority is influential because of his power but often it is vice versa. There are differences between power and influence though their ultimate purpose or objective is the same and that is to control others or to get then to do things you want then to do.
I believe that power evokes fear, but influence evokes respect. In both the cases, the objective is achieved and the work is done in the manner you want but as soon as fear factor is gone, quality of work suffers. On the other hand, influence has got such a magic that those under the influence keep working in the desired manner even in the absence of the influential person.
Influence is a desirable trait in any leader. Power is imposed from the top as when your boss asks you to do a job. You do it in time and in the manner that your boss has asked you to do, but you do it more out of fear than any love or respect for him. You do the job because it is your duty and you are fearful that you might get reported if you do not complete the job.
Some people are powerful because of their influence. However most derive their power from the post they have got. For example, Adolf Hitler was powerful because of his position as the leader of Nazi Germany. However, Mahatma Gandhi was the most influential personality ever to have breathed in India. All the power he had was derived from his influence. He had no post, nor any power from the top – yet he had millions of followers who were ready to die for his cause or obeyed him blindly.
What is power? Power is an extreme form of influence. Power can be very effective in the short term. Power gets used up. Drop a bomb, and you can’t drop another one until the replacement is manufactured. Throw a few punches, and you can’t throw any more until you catch your breath. Exert political power, and you box yourself in a corner because everyone sees your methods. Since people don’t like being made to feel weak, using power can cause others to feel frustrated, angry, and worst of all for you, vengeful.
And what is influence? Influence is more transformational—I create, in your brain, a mental association between the behaviour I want from you and some aspirational goal you have, thereby transforming the tasks I want you to engage in into steps along the your life’s story. Transforming how others view their worlds is as good as it gets. Do this and you won’t need to work so hard to keep others motivated, nor will you need to fight to get them to change. In their eyes, you become an enabler to their goals, so when you speak, believe me, they’ll listen!
By now, it becomes clear how influence is more about inspiration, where as power is more about force. The latter is short term, although tempting sometimes. With power you can make someone do something, but they will know they are only doing it because you are making them. With influence you can make someone do something, but they will think they are doing it of their own free will. This brings me to tell you a famous saying, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
I personally believe that influence is greater than power. Future leaders will need both. To have one without the other will no longer work for them. The misapplication of either can rapidly result in the loss of both.
About Ali Gajani
Hi. I am Ali Gajani. I started Mr. Geek in early 2012 as a result of my growing enthusiasm and passion for technology. I love sharing my knowledge and helping out the community by creating useful, engaging and compelling content. If you want to write for Mr. Geek, just PM me on my Facebook profile.