Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The difference between positional authority and influence

We are trained to believe that positional authority is necessary if we are going to have influence. In fact we usually believe that influence and positional authority are one and the same or must both be present in order to be successful in ministry (or other venues).

I beg to differ. I have written previously that the best influence is from our lives and not from our position. If we believe that positional authority and influence are one and the same, what do we do with someone like Barnabas whose influence made Paul what he became - and who probably had little or no positional authority. Or think of the average lay individual who has huge influence with many people without any positional influence. 

Certainly in missions, influence is far more important than authority. In fact, in most ministry situations our position allows us to possibly tell others what to do (often not a good way to do leadership) but non staff or those around us don't particularly care about our position. What they do care about is whether we have a heart to help and serve them. Furthermore, people don't listen carefully to those they don't respect and respect comes from the quality of our lives rather than the position we hold.

Relying for influence on our positional authority is a big mistake because we can be badly mistaken that our position gave us influence when in fact it may or may not. Influence comes from healthy spiritual, relational and emotional intelligence. It also comes from a kingdom heart that desires to serve others more than it desires to serve ourselves. 

It is the way of Jesus who had no worldly positional power. Nor did it seem to bother him. His self image was not wrapped up in position but rather gave up his position to have influence with those who deserved none of it (Philippians 2). 

It is easy to chase the wrong prize in life. Chasing positional authority for its sake is not a worthy prize. Investing our lives to bring influence for Jesus is the ultimate worthy endeavor. 

I often ask people who was the most important person in the New Testament outside of the Gospels. The answer is almost always Paul. Personally I wonder if it is Barnabas who came alongside Paul when no one else would, loved him, believed him and invested in him. It was all about influence and it produced (in God's Spirit and providence) the greatest leader in the early church - at least in the spread of Christianity and the clarity of theology.

I possess positional authority but my greatest contribution will inevitably come from my influence. Some have both but if all you have is positional authority it is not enough and not a worthy prize. This is the central message of my newest book, "Deep Influence."

Posted from Santiago, Chile

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

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