I mentioned in an earlier post that you can’t change people, unless you apply coercion, which rarely works, and when it does, it does not last. Or, you can influence others within the context of trust, respect and love. Today’s post is about that second option – Influence.
John Maxwell’s definition of leadership is influence, nothing more, and nothing less. I agree that this is the essence of leadership, there are other elements involved. But without influence, you aren’t leading. He who thinks he is leading without anyone following is merely taking a walk. We all influence people at different times during our lives. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Therefore, a corollary would say that we are all leaders as well.
I would recommend any of John Maxwell’s books for a simple no nonsense treatise on leadership and people skills. One of those books is Becoming a Person of Influence, co-written with Jim Dornan. Within they use an acronym to describe the qualities of an Influencer.
A Person of Influence, or Influencer…
Faith in people
Needless to say, an influencer is a quality person. It is some who endears themselves to others. They have the ability to connect with both individuals, one to one, and the masses. They value trust, respect and love, and show it in their actions. One of the best definitions of love is sincerely and selflessly wanting the best for other people. An influencer, or leader, embodies this. With this kind of definition, which raises the bar considerably, it is apparent that a lot who claim the word leader as a title are merely taking a walk. They might indeed have throngs of people “following” them, but they are following for the handfuls of bread they’re being promised rather than being a part of something greater than themselves. A leader has their best interests at heart, not an agenda that elevates the leader.
A leader has catalytic properties. A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change. In human terms, it is a person who precipitates an event. (I also believe that catalytic individual also changes in the process of influencing others. They grow through the process as well.) For our purposes, a catalyst is someone who is a force of nature. Add them to the mix, and things happen. Things get done. And the folks involved are all the better for this person being in their lives. Make no mistake, leadership involves the pursuit of an objective, and mobilizing people to pursuing that objective. But a good leader doesn’t just utilize people as resources to meet that objective. The people and their well being in the pursuit of that objective is part of the objective. If the people have not grown in the process, then the objective will be of no consequence. It would be just a thing. Pursuing a goal will only lead to growth if the people involved in reaching that goal have grown, too.
Becoming a person of influence and catalyst takes some effort. People are not just born with this kind of dynamic. Leaders will tell you that wise choices, good mentors, deliberate deep practice, and shaping events have chiseled them into what they are. It’s more about the nurture than the nature. One might have a personality that precipitates this kind of development sooner, but make no mistake, where they are took much directed effort.
I leave you with a question: If you want to make a difference in the people’s lives around you, what kind of practices are you establishing so as to be a catalyst in those who are important to you?