How important is “influence” to you as a leader? Do you find yourself more focus on attaining a fancy title or reaching a certain position? Leadership isn’t based on position or fancy titles. Leadership is Influence.
I had the privilege over 15 years ago to attend a conference where I heard one of the world’s leading experts on leadership, John Maxwell, talk about his bestselling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
The second law, which is the law of influence, had a profound impact on my life. In that law, he dispelled a common myth by saying that leadership isn’t based on position or impressive titles. He summed up the definition of leadership as, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.”
There’s a leadership proverb that states, “He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.” If you were to look behind you, who is following you? Your spouse, kids, coworkers, colleagues? Maybe it’s students, congregants, or even teammates? What causes people to follow each other?
Another world leading expert, Ken Blanchard, author of the bestselling book The One Minute Manager, stated this, “The key to successful leadership today is influence.” There’s no getting around it, if you want to be a leader, you have to have influence.
The challenge for you as a leader is to not focus on what it will take to attain a position but what will it take to attract followers. As a leader, influence is critical not only in leading and impacting others but also in leading yourself.
2 Ways to Influence Yourself and Influence Others
1. Check Your Habits.
The first key point is to check your habits. We are creatures of habit and habits influence us. Influence flows inside out and there is no influence like the influence of habits. What drives you? What are your interests, your passions?
Your passions and your interests actually cause you to develop habits and routines to get you closer to your goals. Your passions and your interests also are huge motivators, but motivation alone will not get you to the leadership mountaintop.
Motivation points and focuses you there, but habits get you there. Another way to look at it is motivation gets you started, but your habits keep you going. While you’re checking your habits make sure that you break the bad ones and create some new ones.
In order to understand a new idea, new concept, new solution, you have to break old habits. The Apostle Paul once said, “Don’t let evil overcome you, but overcome evil by doing good. (Romans 12:21)” Let’s actually substitute the word evil with whatever old or bad habit that’s standing in your way.
Don’t let doubt, don’t let fear, don’t let negativity get the best of you, but get the best of whatever it is that is standing in your way to success as a leader, by doing good, by doing what is right, by creating new habits.
We lead ourselves by using our heads, our habits, our experiences, but we impact others by using our hearts. Which leads us to our second and final key point, which is to check your actions.
2. Check Your Actions.
When leading and impacting others it is important to remember that it’s a heart thing, not a smart thing. I’m sure you would agree that for the most part, people don’t care what you know, they just want to know that you care.
Ben Franklin had this to say, “If you would persuade or influence, you must appeal to interests or passions rather than intellect.” As a leader, care more about helping people than you do, trying to impress people.
A leader should touch their heart before they ask for their hand. Just like you have your own interests and passions, so do others. It’s your job, it’s your duty to connect with others passions and interests.
Leading by example is a great way to check your actions. The most powerful moral influence is an example. You develop your credibility with people by actually connecting and showing genuine interest through your actions, by sharing freely, by giving generously.
Pastor Chris Hodges, the author of the book Fresh Air, has a saying that is a great example of how to lead by example, “Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it.” That’s leading by example.
In conclusion, I want to challenge you instead of focusing on a position or an impressive title to focus on being an influencer, because influencers make things happen. But here’s a warning; influence is earned, not given.
You earn it by actually touching other’s hearts, not showing them that you’re smart. God will give influence to those who use it to bless others and to honor him. One more thing. Your habits influence you, your actions influence others. Now go and change your world!
Who has influenced you the most in your leadership journey? Please comment below.