“The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
“Leadership impact increases as influence increases.”
I strive to be the best leader to my teams that I can and I was recently inspired by another chapter of The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day, titled “The Law of Influence.” There, John C. Maxwell uses the Biblical story of Joshua to illustrate the principle. So here’s a quick summary: Moses summoned leaders from each of the Israelite tribes and sent them to explore the land of Canaan to see if it was indeed the land promised to them by God (The Promised Land). Most of the leaders were scared and wanted to go back to Egypt, so they reported that Canaan was a bad place and their people should not travel there. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, gave a great report, stating that the land was flowing with “milk and honey.” God had promised Moses that the Israelites would enter the Promised Land, but because Joshua did not have the influence to change the minds of the tribal leaders and get them to lead their peoples there, a whole generation did not get to experience the Promised Land. Later Moses mentored Joshua, so that he gained the influence necessary to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land after Moses passed.
This was an extremely brief overview of the story, but what it demonstrates is that an organization will rise and fall depending on the amount of influence a leader has. Influence and, thus, LEADERSHIP cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned; it must be EARNED. Even though Joshua was a tribal leader, most likely a position he was appointed because of his family, he had little influence to change the minds of the other tribal leaders. He had not yet put in the time to gain their respect and be able to influence them when he really needed to sway them. A leader with tremendous influence is able to get people to act even during tough times of fear. As an older man, after he was mentored by Moses, his influence with the people had grown. He had earned the respect of the people because day-in and day-out, they would see him working closely with Moses and making decisions with Moses. This eased his transition into their leader, because the people had already accepted his influence.
Here’s an example from the present. I was talking to my friend that works at a gym. He was telling me that the GM at his gym got fired and then one of the managers quit the same day. The next day the President of the club came to visit and promoted an employee from another club to the GM position because he was a great salesman. This caused me to question the leadership of the organization and why all these people were getting fired and leaving. It’s great to have a fresh new person running a club, yet I see two potential issues:
- Coming from a different club, this new individual would not readily have influence over the current workers. Therefore, this person is going to have to do a lot of work to gain the influence necessary. An obstacle for him gaining this influence is probably the large amount of influence the previous GM held, as evidenced by the manager quitting after his dismissal. The new GM may be facing an uphill battle.
- Just because someone is an amazing salesperson, does not mean they can lead an organization. How big are the groups this person has led? How are their leadership skills and ability to gain influence? The success of this new GM rides on his ability to influence.
- CHARACTER: True influence comes from who the leader is on the inside. The attitude of the leader will trickle down into the organization. Strong character will produce a strong organization. We can increase our influence by improving our character.
- RELATIONSHIPS: We need to build the right types of relationships with individuals and key leaders in our organizations. Business is mostly about people. If you have people in your organization that trust you, then you have influence. If not; you don’t. We need to have more than the casual water cooler, gossip conversation with people. We need to talk to them and get to know them. (I talked about this in a previous blog in more depth.) If you create a foundation where people trust you, you will have a rock-solid organization and your influence will go through the roof. Get to know your people to increase your relationships. Increase your relationships to increase your INFLUENCE.
- KNOWLEDGE: As the leader, we have to know what we are talking about. We have to be knowledgeable of our organization, mission, and systems. Many times people just want to lead. It’s actually better to learn first, rather than to lead first. When I was in the Air Force and flying, I distinctly remember that the commanders who knew the ins and outs of the jet always had more influence with the squadron than those who didn’t. Not only is knowledge important, so is the APPLICATION of said knowledge. The best way to increase our knowledge is to find a mentor, (someone that has what you want and is knowledgeable about where you want to go. We must learn everything we possibly can from them. A mentor will increase our knowledge and thus increase our influence.
- INTUITION/EXPERIENCE: Before knowledge, we must have experience, because once we have knowledge we gain intuition. Normally when people start something they are unconsciously incompetent — they don’t know what they don’t know. When I was a baby Navigator and still learning about flying, I did everything slowly. Many times I would find myself way behind the plane and not able to catch up. After many years and many hours of flying, I became unconsciously competent – meaning I didn’t need to think, but I could just react to the situation. Once I became an instructor, things began to flow and it felt like the plane wasn’t moving so fast. I had equipped myself with all the tools necessary to properly react to any situation. Also, I got to the point where I was proactively preventing situations. To increase our experience and intuition, we have to do something repeatedly until it becomes second nature. We must pick something worth being good at and focus and practice/train it daily. Increasing this training will increase our experience and intuition, thus increasing our Influence.
- PAST SUCCESSES/ABILITY: Everyone wants to follow someone that has been through what they are experiencing. These people are a wealth of knowledge, because they have the experience. Having a mentor is so important, because he/she can help us avoid a lot of pitfalls. We must BE THE LEADER WHO LEADS FROM THE FRONT. I’ve seen many a leader out there leading from the back. The leader who outworks everyone in the organization demonstrates his/her ability and therefore increases his/her influence.
While we may presently be lacking in one of these areas, the positive thing is that at any time we can make a decision to become a better “influencer” and a better leader. We can pick one factor and work on it until it gets better. If you’d like more information on influence or leadership, let me know.