Switch to this type of Leadership. 

Leadership used to be simple and straightforward. The boss decided what had to be done, told someone, and that person or committee got working on it. Clear, simple, quick, and efficient. It was called top-down, or positional leadership.

Sounds pretty great, right? Well, careful because it’s not as great as it seems. Even though this type of leadership might of helped businesses and nonprofit agencies get work done quickly, it came at a great cost.

The alternative — Influential leadership is much harder to attain, but far more effective. It doesn’t focus on what position you hold in the organization. It focuses on ideas and creativity.

This style of leadership differs drastically from positional leadership in that while only the top person can exert positional leadership, anyone can have and exert influential leadership.  

What is Positional Leadership and Why Doesn’t it Work Anymore?

Positional leadership depends on the position you hold in the company or organization. Your job title determines just how much power, influence, or authority you have.

Think “The boss might not always be right, but he’s always the boss.” This means that much of the decision-making or brainstorming is centralized, with the rest of the team left to execute.

While it might offer efficiency and speed, positional leadership lacks many important features we see in successful companies and agencies today.

4 Reasons Positional Leadership Doesn’t Really Work

1. No chance to be creative and think – employees, volunteers, etc. simply execute tasks and do what they’re told, how they’re told to do it. There’s no discussion, no creative input, no new ideas. This also means there’s no time to reflect on better ways to get things done.

2. No sense of ownership  – team members don’t feel empowered to make decisions, pick the best way to carry out a task or complete a goal, or choose their own path to results. This lack of autonomy not only stifles creativity, but drastically reduces personal investment in the task at hand. Rather than feeling a sense of responsibility for a positive result, the goal becomes just get the job done as fast as possible.

3. No professional development or personal growth– people aren’t given the opportunity to learn new things, develop new skills, or stretch their thinking. When you’re given a list of 5 things to do, and a 10 page document of exactly how to do them, the part of your brain that thrives on creative thinking shuts down. In order to stay motivated and interested, we need to continually push our minds to learn new things.

4. No opportunity for collaboration or brainstorming – getting the job done is the main goal, rather than delivering the best effort. Just focus on execution. When everything is spelled out for you, there’s no opportunity to reach out to others. Creativity is often unleashed by working with other people — even if it’s just brainstorming. As social creatures we are inherently designed to need interaction from those around us. Collaboration almost always leads to better ideas, better results, and more innovation.

Studies show that more people leave jobs for lack of personal growth, advancement, and learning opportunities, then they do over money. In the age of thinking work, people want to be challenged, they want to learn new things, and they want to have autonomy over how their work is completed.

What is Influential Leadership and Why is it Better?

Influential leadership doesn’t focus on what position you hold in the organization. It focuses on ideas, creativity, and problem solving.

This style of leadership differs drastically from positional leadership in that anyone can have and exert influential leadership but only the top person can exert positional leadership.  

Who has the best ideas when working on projects? Who does your team look to for creativity or to get out of a jam?

In many cases, it’s not the boss but someone else on the team, who comes up with the most innovative ideas on how to proceed or solve a problem.

People will more willingly listen to and follow an influential leader than a positional leader. The influential leader has earned the right to lead. The team members feel freer and more respected than under a positional leader.

An influential leader takes time to listen to the feedback from others on the team. They often incorporate this feedback when creating a solution to a problem. They look to leverage the strengths of the entire team, rather than dictating how the problem will be solved.

The influential leader delegates authority to others on the team, while still being responsible for the end result.

This can be hard for even the most experienced leaders, but if you want to get the very best out of your team, then give them some room to work and grow.

Influential leaders will have more engaged teams and get better results, period. People want to work with a leader, not just for them.

Becoming an influential leaderespecially in a nonprofit — is one of the most significant things you can do to move your organization forward and make a bigger impact.

Want to Learn More About Your Own Unique Style of Leadership?

Take the Leadership Edge Quiz to discover your primary leadership style, areas of strength and key benefits for your leadership personality. Learn more about not only yourself but the effectiveness of your leadership style and how to increase your impact.

Need a little help becoming a leader of influence? Leading for Impact could be for you. Work one-on-one with me through my personalized coaching program for nonprofit leaders.