Leadership and Authority



    There is a distinct difference between leadership and authority. Often these words are confused; the term “leader” is assigned to those who have been granted authority such as a “boss” of an organization. These people may never lead, only direct or manage others, exercising power though authority, from a place of control. Leadership is inspiring people to follow because that is what they want to do. It is cooperative and allows the collective consciousness to expand and be creative. Authority is telling people to follow because they have to.

    There are three types of authority as described by sociologist Max Weber, charismatic, traditional and rational formal authority. These describe how authority is founded in groups as an attempt to achieve consistent social behaviour. It indicates how power is used and how this affects social behaviors within groups. Jesus and Mohammed possessed charismatic authority, their powerful presence and deeply held beliefs accomplished authority over followers, which resulted in people changing their beliefs to match.

    Weber discusses “routinization of charisma” which occurs when others use the personal authority of an individual and reproduce a formal and rational authority. Jesus’ charismatic authority was replicated as organized religions, which claimed authority based on the teachings of Jesus.

    Jesus did not only use authority, he was a leader. He did not use control; it would seem he allowed for choice in his teachings. Likewise, Buddha gives us the same sense of truly engaging with people. He informed people about seeking enlightenment but did not direct them to do so.

    Both of these leaders acted from a place of personal power and enlightenment and inspired others to follow. That is the difference between leadership and authority, those with leadership presence have personal power, and those in authority have positional power.

    One must develop personal power inciting others to follow because they want to. A sustainable organization grows due to shared intentions, which allows choice. When you lead from a place of calm, assertive and deeply inspired action, people will naturally gravitate toward you. When you maintain that passion and direction, they will remain with you.

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