Me a leader – surely not!

Leadership sounds likes such a grand word. It is so easy for the mind to drift to the greats of history – Churchill, Gandhi, Mother Theresa or maybe the more infamous like Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. And then of course there are political leaders. Cynicism abounds all over the world when one mentions political leaders.

But me a leader? Surely not.
Maybe not in the league and stature of those previously mentioned, but I have found John Maxwell’s definition of leadership as influence the most helpful.

When we talk of leadership as influence then it spans all of human experience from the prominent to the apparently insignificant because in some way or other, consciously or unconsciously, we all influence someone.

A mother’s influence over her child can go on to impact whole nations or be profoundly important to the well being and development of that child.

  • We influence by the words we say and the words we don’t say.
  • We influence by what we do and don’t do.

The question is whether that influence is positive or negative.

Whatever you hope to achieve in life the single most important factor that will determine its overall effectiveness is your ability to influence others.

But how can we influence others?

The lowest forms of influence are force, intimidation and manipulation. And that is at least part of the reason why some can be so cynical about leadership.

Traditionally in the business world influence has come about because of position – a title or a qualification. Or even more basically from a pay cheque – he (or she!) who can pay the most exerts the most influence. But in reality position is the lowest form of legitimate influence. You can buy someone’s hand to do a task, but not necessarily their heart.

How does one influence someone to go from willing compliance to cheerful cooperation on to heartfelt commitment and even creative excitement about the enterprise to be undertaken?

John Maxwell and Jim Dornan’s book ‘Becoming a person of influence’ (see below) gives 10 keys to genuine and lasting influence. Helpfully as well they spell out the word INFLUENCER:

I -integrity with people
N – nurturing other people
F – faith in people
L – listening to people
U – understands people
E – enlarges people
N – navigates for other people
C – connects with people
E – empowers people
R – reproduces other influencers.

But here is the challenge to you and me.
If we are going to be a positive influence in the world then we are going to have to be intentional about it.
Positive influence does not just happen.
In fact negative influence, generally speaking, is more common as most people do not think through the implications of what they do.

What do you think about that?
Do you agree that positive influence requires greater intentional effort?
How well does leadership as influence resonate with you and your own life experience?
Please feel free to leave your comments below.