Influencers: Leaders vs. Rulers

Influence. If you think about it, everyone has influence in some sphere of life. It’s just a fact. But that fact should make you stop and think. What am I doing with that influence? How am I using and managing that influence? How am I acquiring that influence?

There are two ways to use your influence. You can be a leader, or you can be a ruler. The difference between leaders and rulers is huge and extremely fundamental. At an Institute for Cultural Communicators training event this past spring, president and co-founder of ICC, Teresa Moon, spoke on the differences between leaders and rulers. Let’s take a look at a few of the differences that she pointed out:

  1. Leaders have followers; rulers have subjects. This is big! The primary difference between leaders and followers is the people they are influencing. Leaders have followers, people who want to follow and be influenced. Rulers, on the other hand, have subjects, people who have no choice but to follow and do what they’re told.
  2. Leaders are given their influence; rulers create their influence. Leaders are given their position by their followers. The followers want the leader to lead because of something in them – their character. Rulers force their position on their subjects. Followers choose; subjects are chosen.
  3. Leaders care about their followers; rulers use their subjects. Leaders are who they are not because they want influence but because they care about people and want to help them. That’s why followers choose them as leaders to start with. To contrast, rulers are only interested in influence and view their subjects only as means to an end. Rulers don’t care about their subjects as people, but merely as “things” to exert influence on.

Ultimately, leaders reflect the heart of God and His love, whereas rulers use force, which isn’t in accordance with what God calls us to.

From this comparison, it’s pretty clear which we should desire to be! Like I said at the beginning, we all have influence in some way. We must, therefore, choose whether we’ll be leaders or rulers. It’s easy to want to be a leader, but harder to actually practice it. I can definitely attest to this. Normally I’m fine with being a leader until things don’t go exactly how I want them to. Then I start to turn to the practices of a ruler so I can get things done the way I want them. It’s not always easy to be a leader! But it’s the right thing.

I encourage you to analyze your actions in light of leaders versus rulers. Strive to be a leader, no matter how hard it might be. When you find yourself tending toward the habits of a ruler instead of a leader, identify the circumstances encouraging this behavior so that you can best adjust your perspective, attitude, and actions.

If we all have influence in some way, then we must choose to be either a leader or a ruler. Choose to be a leader. Yes, let’s be leaders.

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