Influence is one of the key aspects of leadership. However, is it possible that you are influencing people without actually leading them? Could you only be motivating, or manipulating them even? What is the difference between motivation, manipulation and leadership anyway?
I like how the late Zig Ziglar gives each of these terms a simple definition that makes a very clear distinction from one another:
Motivation is when you inspire somebody to do something for their own good.
Manipulation is when you get somebody to do something for your good.
Leadership is when you persuade people to do something for your mutual benefit.
So for instance, if you influence a team member to make a career change that will better fulfill his potential, you are motivating him to do something for his own good, but this doesn’t necessarily benefit you in any way.
On the other hand, if you influence a team member to help you execute a task for which you claim full credit thereafter, you are manipulating him.
Finally, if you influence a team member to work on part of a project that goes towards achieving a vision and purpose in which both of you share, you are leading him.
Knowing these definitions and their distinctions serves as a good gauge to examine your intentions with regard to influencing people. Sometimes we may altruistically motivate others towards certain actions, to the detriment of the bigger purpose. We may also unwittingly manipulate others while thinking that you are leading, but end up losing their trust. By always looking to do what is mutually beneficial to both yourself and your followers, it will help set you well on the path of strong leadership.
Recall and review incidents where you had influenced the people around you in the past week. Was each instance a case of motivation, manipulation or leadership?