Power & Authority
The eyes of the world are on the British royal family once again with the recent announcement of Prince William’s forthcoming marriage to a “commoner.” That word “commoner” really rubs me wrong since I’ve always aspired to uncommon dreams, uncommon success and an uncommon life.
The whole royalty vs. commoner mentality got me thinking about the difference between influence – which translates as power – and authority. British royalty have tremendous influence, though that doesn’t equate to actual authority in the realm of tangible involvement in the legislative, judicial or political process. You probably know most of the names of the royal family, yet it’s unlikely you can name more than one of the leaders who’s actually running the country. Score one for influence.
Influence is power and carries more weight than actual positional authority. Case in point is the many teenagers who are more likely to make decisions based on peer pressure than parental rules. That changes if the relationship between parent and teen is strong enough that love and honor create influence and accountability rather than straight obedience.
From the small issues like driving too fast in spite of the speed limit (thumbing your nose at authority) to the major things like America’s economy that is virtually controlled by the Federal Reserve Board who wield more power than our lawmakers, there’s countless examples of the impact that personal influence has in our daily lives.
Applied to the dynamics of the workplace, this eye-opener underscores why building healthy relationships is more important than making more rules and waving punishments as a threat to get people to perform. The most effective leaders wisely use their position of authority to gain influence.
Consider the areas you have authority in. And then consider the areas you are able to influence. Don’t be lulled into thinking that just because you don’t have authority to amend policies or dictate change that you can’t make a difference. Influence is defined as “the power or capacity of producing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.”
America is a nation where the “commoner” can be supplanted by the everyday champion. Thoreau said it best when he penned, “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
So forget the commoner mentality. You have more power than you think. Use it wisely.