The word ‘leader’ has been used long before the term ‘influencer’ emerged. We know leaders as people with stamina and charisma, who can impact others and motivate them. However, when we started reading about influencers in social media and news articles, we assumed that an influencer is a new leader.

Thus, we often use the words leaders and influencers interchangeably. Leaders can indeed influence other people’s decisions, while influencers can lead by their influence. However, there are several striking differences between these notions that are worthy of your attention.

Here at, we have recently received an interesting order from a student. They asked to explain the difference between leadership and influence in the form of an essay. It was a turning point for us, writers, because the word ‘influencer’ which is a product of social media, is now taking over the ‘leader.’ Let’s try to figure out the difference.

Leaders Empower, Influencers Don’t

The fundamental difference between leaders and influencers lies in the way they use their power over people. Leaders strive to empower and motivate. They seek ways to set goals and explain the means, helping people believe in themselves. Leadership calls for action and aligns with people’s deepest values.

Influencers do not empower. Just like marketers, authors, and writers, they influence people in a comparatively values-neutral way. They have influence, but they cannot lead people towards some fundamental changes.

Influence Is not Critical for Leaders

Leaders vs. influencers: the key points of difference


Having influence is great for leaders, and many of them strive to have an impact on people. However, leaders can perfectly do without it. For example, a team player who may not be in a leadership position can do much more for the team’s morale than the one formally called a leader. Such people have intangible influence over others.

At the same time, some leaders do not have the influence as we know it. They may have an element of it, intended to promote people’s growth and development rather than to make them follow certain paths or make actions.

Effect Changes or Follow Them?

The world’s best leaders had an overwhelming charisma that influenced and charmed millions of followers. They advocated for changes with their speeches, image, personal values, etc. To make people follow them, influencers usually need much more than a speech or charisma. They lack this inner source of power that true leaders have.

Influence without Leadership Is Short-term and Unstable

Leadership depends more on a person and their character rather than influence. True leaders strive to make a positive change, which is a more stable and long-lasting effect compared to influence alone. Therefore, a true leader will seek ways to impact through leadership and growth. Influencers, if they lack leadership skills, can only count on a short-term effect that quickly fades.

Influencers Will Never Make It in History

Great leaders are now remembered by their nations. They stood by certain values and principles that became fundamental for millions of people living after them. Such leaders were not easy to give recommendations, knowing the burden of responsibility that they carried.

Influencers are marketers whose goal is to sell. Be it an idea or a product, most of them do not get into the matter of it. They only strive to make money, often ignoring the possible outcomes. However, truth be told, some influencers offer only those products and goods that are research-backed and reliable.

What Drives Leaders and Influencers?

Another striking difference between leaders and influencers is their motivation. For influencers, recommendations they give to a community of followers means money. They may check the quality of a product, but their primary goal is to earn.

Leaders act in a different way. They often do not have any material component driving them. They are inspired by a single idea and look for ways to deliver this idea to people. They add value by sharing their thoughts and opinions, inspiring others along the way.

Reality vs. Social Media

Influencers do not exist in real life. They value their online community because this is the only way they can reach out to their audience. Thus, influencers are clearly a product of social media.

Leaders exist everywhere, including in social media and real life. They have professions where they also try to impact their community and promote changes. They gather audiences whether they speak online or live. Ideally, they do not collaborate with brands and say only those things they truly believe in.

Final Words

The fundamental conclusion from all mentioned above is that leadership and influence are symbiotic siblings, but leaders and influencers are not the same. They are motivated by different things and they strive to impact people in different ways.

Influencers are value-neutral. They sell things they find nice and good for their community of followers. Leaders inspire people with ideas and promises, both online and in real life.

Source: ~ Image: Canva Pro

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