When I was younger I was taught to respect my elders and people of authority. Pretty sound advice. But hey, listen, I think respecting people in general is an overall good philosophy to uphold.

Yet something always bothered me about this idea of “blind respect” that I should respect people not because how they are with me; but rather based on their status. This idea of respecting solely based on status creates an environment of entitlement from those people in positions of authority. It suggests that I owe them my respect yet it is not to be reciprocated.

Having said all that, I must admit that in my younger years I was caught up with idea that gaining positions of authority meant automatic respect. It meant people had to do what I asked (or rather what I told them to do). It meant leadership.

Boy was I misguided! Authority isn’t leadership.authority isn't leadership

After a few missteps of flexing my bravado, I had learned leadership does not come with a title or from a position. Leadership comes from within. Everyone can be a leader; but only those who choose to be a leader, are leaders.

Leaders consciously act in ways that promote and foster trust, respect, collaboration and integrity. Leaders are consistent in these behaviours. Leaders do not take relationships for granted instead they continually make an effort to ensure their relationships are strong and mutually beneficial.

I learned just because I was in a position of authority it did not mean people would follow me. The reality was my team “did as I said” but to be clear they were only complying in order to protect their personal well-being. They did not do it for me.

Based on my experience, the difference between authority and leadership is:

  • Authority: When things don’t go right, people with authority blame others and save themselves.
  • Leadership: When things don’t go right, leaders take full ownership and accountability for the situation and dedicate themselves to improving the circumstance by first starting within.

If you want to be a leader, be a leader from within, not because you have authority.