Leadership Is Influence, Not Office


A. Insights of Influence.

1. Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. Harry Over-street says, “There very essence of all power to influence lies in getting other persons to participate”. So when we lead people we influence people. So many a time we take leadership as title or office or a job description. “He that thinks he leadeth but has no one following is only taking a walk”, the proverb goes.

2. Our influence with others usually is not in all areas. It is imperative to know we can influence people in certain areas, but in some areas not influence them at all. Most leaders think that because they are leaders they must have the ability to influence every other area of people’s lives. Far from the truth! “No leader does well in every law of relationship”, teaches Maxwell in the book “21 Laws of leadership”. He advises that when one gets his/her leadership team, find out your strengths and weaknesses in you and every other member of the team. Maybe a member is a stronger navigator able to take the team or organization from step 1 step 2 with minimal resources than the overall leader. Then the overall leader should turn the role of navigation to the member. This is important the moment we understand leadership is influence and not position. Those who tend to think leadership is position tend to want to lead everything. “If you’re not strong on an area, by holding on to the role then all you’re doing is taking a walk down the memory lane”, he advises. The moment we understand that leadership is not position but influence, then we must list our perceived strengths and weaknesses, and move around asking others what they think our strength and weaknesses are. We do not tell them!

3. With influence comes responsibility. “There are people whose feelings of well-beings are within my influence, and as a leader won’t escape that fact”, is what leadership echoes. When we lead people we must understand that we are responsible for them, and some times to them.

4. Your influence with others is either positive or negative. In other words, when we influence people, we either add value to them or suck the life out of them. There are some people we wish we never met during the day while there are some when we are having a bad day we just wish we could see them. The latter influence us positively while the former negatively. When we view ourselves as leaders we ask ourselves whether people like to be around us or avoid us.

5. People of positive influence add value to others. Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when we add value to other people.

B. 10 Ways to Gain Influence.

1. Integrity with people.

People who influence others have integrity. Dwight Hines writes, “In order to be a leader a man must have followers, and to have followers I must have confidence. Hence the supreme quality of a leader is integrity; and without it no real success is possible whether in a football field or office”. A leader’s teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need therefore is integrity and great purpose. A recent survey in USA of 1,300 senior managers; 70% of them put the highest quality of the person they work with in a company to be integrity.

Influencers have integrity. Sometime ago in their mission statement Johnson & Johnson Ltd had stated that they would operate with honesty and integrity. Any several weeks before that had forced them to pull one of their products off the shelves. The president of Johnson & Johnson sent a memo to all presidents of divisions asking them if they believed in the mission statement. This came back in the affirmative, and within hours the president of the company ordered all the products off the shelves, knowing it was a USD 100 million decision. When reporters asked him how he could decide rapidly such a decision; he replied, “I was practicing what we’d agreed on our mission statement”. It’s always easy to do right when you know ahead of time what you stand for”, observed one intellectual.

In the book, “21 Laws of Leadership”, one of the laws is the “law of solid ground”. It states that to have integrity, one needs character, you also need confidence.

Abraham Lincoln once stated, “At the end of my administration I want to have one friend left, and that friend is myself”. Doubtlessly he meant his integrity. A renowned American baseball coach states, “Do what’s right. And if you can’t treat others as you’d want to be treated, they’ll ask three questions: one, Can I trust you? Two, Do you believe this? I.e. are you committed to it? Three, Do you care about me as a person?”

2. Nurture people.

There is a nurturing quality about people who influence other people. Unfortunately many leaders love their position more than they love their people. However people can be very exasperating. When leading the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, Moses soon discovered that-he was leading a people drawn on rebellion and strife; inducing a great anger in him to the extent of fidgeting the LORD God at the water of Meribah. And thereby causing him the promised land (Numbers 20:2-12&24).

Nurturing people however does not mean needing people. A lot of leaders think because they are nurturers they need people. You can’t lead people if you need people. Nurturing means making commitment to people. The saying goes, “Love will find a way, but indifference will find excuse”. Nurturing does not mean loving people. Henry Draman once quipped, “If you look back at your life, you’ll find the moments you rarely lived were the moments you had done things in the spirit of love”. Nurturing people also means lifting people to a higher level. An American football coach says in this regard, “Deep down your players must know you care about them. I could never get away with the things I do if the players didn’t know that I care. They know in the long run I’m in their corner.

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