Elected Leaders vs. Influential Leaders

Elected vs Influential - 1Here is challenge that you may have to face at some point in your leadership career. You will encounter two types of leaders. Elected leaders and Influential leaders.

Have you ever considered these two types? If not, consider them now.

Elected leaders are the ones that we may be familiar with the most. It is reasonably clear how they became leaders. Someone recognized leadership ability within them. The organization then went on and nominated or appointed them to a position of responsibility and leadership. That is fairly clear cut. Ability was recognized and a position was attained. This is generally a good model and it produces good results.

Elected vs Influential - 2Now consider the second type – the Influential leader. This person generally does not have real leadership skills. Yet they have a position of leadership in spite of it. They generally attain the position through shear force of personality.  That may be just a euphemism for being a bully. But that is not always the case. Sometimes it is because they possess a specialized skill.  Sometimes they attain it through longevity within the organization. Sometime they attain the role of leader through fame, notoriety, family or financial position. These are the leaders that are difficult to work with or work for.

What do you do or how do you handle a encounter with an influential leader who is not necessarily widely recognized or elected to serve a constituency?

I have had experience with this type of individual in the past. Although I will not reveal the details at this point.  Rather, I will wait on you, the great reader and fellow leader to weigh in on the topic.


Photo credit: Rama / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee / Foter.com / CC BY

8 Replies to “Elected Leaders vs. Influential Leaders”

  1. I find this comparison interesting because I could find pros and cons with both types. First of all an elected leader may let the power go to his head, and either “forget why he is in the position” or not really support the populous to start with . Secondly, the influential leader may be a “hesitant leader” but may retain the experience and knowledge needed for a TEAM to be succesfull.

  2. Here is the crux of what I want to explore in the future on this topic:
    How should you deal with these two types of leaders?
    What if you are the elected leader and yet your authority is being usurped by an influential leader?
    What if you are the influential leader and yet you have not been elected or chosen to lead? What do you do and how do you handle that?

  3. I don’t disagree that “influential” leaders have wisdom from being in the industry and everyone can definitely learn from this leader if the information is shared. This works if this leader knows how to invest into his team or fellow workers. Knowledge is only good if shared and shared properly. A dictator attitude because you have more grey hair isn’t the answer. You must invest into people and share common ground. You need to be in the trenches with your team and show them you will fight with them when things aren’t going well. Work side by side when your team is struggling and make the team better. A leadership position should be earned, not given. I have seen too much of this lately.

    1. So, I put this post together to introduce the topic. I have a follow-up post coming this week-end. But, the thrust of the idea in the upcoming is to explore briefly what it is like to be the elected leader, yet have an influential leader either on your team, or outside the team exerting their influence.

      I hear what you are saying about leadership in general. Perhaps you could write an article describing what leadership looks like to a young and up and coming leader.

  4. How do you handle “influential” leaders? Lead from the bottom up and sooner or later it becomes apparent. The problem is….who “deals with the ineffective leader”…. To date it’s the same story. Team is doing well and the “influential” leader shines.

    1. Without getting specific, I think it is important to first of all decide which leader we are – the elected or the influential – and then see what we can do to benefit the team from our current position. But I do believe, and can attest from personal experience, that influential leaders ultimately become the elected leaders in many cases. At least that is my experience in healthy environments. More to come. And thanks for reading.

  5. I was thinking the same thing, Billy. I think there will always be those who are in both categories who aren’t cut out for the role they are filling and there will always be those who aren’t living up to their potential, maybe because they doubt their own ability. But in either case, Kevin’s question still remains. “What do you do or how do you handle a encounter with an influential leader who is not necessarily widely recognized or elected to serve a constituency?”

    I think you look look to see what kind of influence they are having and determine if you can in any way come along side of them and assist them; helping the best come out in them. I believe that if we happen to work for that kind of leader it’s our job as part of the team to fill in the gaps they may have in their leadership abilities, but to do so in a way that can highlight what strengths they do have and assist in moving the team toward the goal for which it exists. In so doing we can help strengthen the team and potentially help that influential leader grow.

    1. Janet, you are thinking along the same lines as me. (That should scare you!) I have a follow-up article coming out soon that explores this a little more. Stay tuned and thanks for lending your voice.

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