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Influence. We All Have It. How Are You Using Yours?

Published March 23, 2015

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Influence. We all have it even if we think we don’t. Influence is defined by Webster as impact, control, sway, power, authority, direction, and pressure. As leaders we all have some sort of influence on the people we work with, our families, and our friends. So the question isn’t whether or not we have influence, it’s what kind of influence we have, and how are we using that influence.
One of my favorite authors and leadership experts, John Maxwell, defines Leadership as having influence. Nothing more and nothing less. I think John is right. Think about it. If you have some sort of control in a situation, or you set direction and have the authority to create change then you are exerting influence.
I once heard someone say that as leaders our words weigh 1000 pounds and that we need to be careful with the words we choose to say around young leaders. We all have had those times where the moment the words left our mouths we knew we had either overshot our reach, said something without being compassionate, or let our pride get in the way of delivering the right message.
But the beauty of leadership is that we learn from those moments and when we respond in humility and take ownership for our words and action we are able to lead more authentically than ever. That’s certainly been my experience as a leader and I would bet it has been your experience too.
As leaders we are in a position to influence those around us, even those who may not be in our circles of influence, in huge ways. Having influence is a huge responsibility and can also be very satisfying as you help other leaders grow through your leadership.
If your leadership is intentional, your influence will be felt far beyond your circle of influence. That’s leadership…influence beyond yourself. You never know how far your leadership will reach. I believe that every leadership moment leads beyond you to another person who might not even be in the conversation. That type of influence can be hugely positive if the message is delivered in the right context and delivered with compassion, grace, and candor.
As leaders we get a lot of questions. Sometimes it’s a request for advice, and sometimes its a request for specific direction to fix a problem.
One of the best things about leadership is when you as a leader are able to plant an idea in someone’s mind, without giving them the answer to the question they have. What ends up happening, with the right encouragement and influence, is that the person you’re working with comes back to you and tells you what they want to do to solve a problem or fix a situation.
I had a leader like this once in my career, and his name was Matt. He was masterful at turning my question into an opportunity. He wasn’t being evasive. He was leading. It took me awhile to figure out what he was doing but once I did I knew how brilliant it was. I began to anticipate the conversation with Matt, but before I actually had it I ran through the various scenarios and outcomes in my mind and that exercise resulted many times in Matt saying “nice job”.
As a leader when we use our influence in such a way that we develop the leaders and team around us then everybody wins! Influence. We all have it. How will you use yours today?