In my recent article, “How can I change the World?“, I stated that it’s better to be an influencer than a leader if you really want to make a difference to society. Since this is a theory that may surprise or even confuse some people, I thought I’d expand on it a bit.
The first thing I need to explain is how I identify the difference between a leader and an influencer.
What is a leader?
The way I see it, a leader puts the emphasis on three main pieces of information for their followers: “What?”, “Where?”, and “When?”. An influencer, on the other hand, puts the emphasis on the “Why?”.
If you think about it, a leader can lead people just by telling them what they need to do, where they need to do it, and when they need to do it. There’s no real need for the followers to actually understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. In many cases, they just take it on faith that their leader has a good reason for it.
This is the type of leadership model that has been used throughout history for things like the military, where soldiers go into battle on the command of their superiors, without ever knowing the ultimate reason for them doing it.
In the military, there’s actually normally a very complex chain of leadership, with leaders at each level only being given just enough information to carry out their tasks. To see examples of the downside of this system, you only have to read historical accounts of armies that fell into chaos and retreated or surrendered once their leader had been killed.
A person can quite literally “lead” a dog to keep it under control, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog understands why its movements are being restricted. If the owner removes the lead, the dog is highly likely to start running around and doing what its natural instincts tell it to do.
What makes an influencer different?
By being an influencer, rather than a leader, you’re putting your efforts into explaining the reasoning behind your decision or viewpoint to your followers. This allows them to make their own informed decisions about the actions they take, turning them into autonomous individuals, rather than a flock of blind followers.
If you can educate individuals to understand and share your viewpoint, your message can reach many more people than if you are a direct “leader”. You’re giving other people the knowledge to become influencers themselves, and therefore giving them the ability to spread your message further.
A group of like-minded thinkers will not be so vulnerable to collapse if they lose their main influencer, as they will all have the understanding to continue working towards the goal, and other key influencers can rise from the group to keep the message spreading.
So, don’t you agree that it’s better to be an influencer than just a leader?