INFLUENCE NOT IMPOSITION
John Maxwell describes leadership as “influence.” In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership he wrote, “If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader. That’s the Law of Influence.”
The key to influence is recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each individual and focusing on the development and inspiration of the strength and then simply managing the weaknesses. You don’t have time to change a weakness. Effective coaches are the ones who identify the talent and potential a player already has and then work to develop them and integrate those abilities into a team. They position a player to maximize his or her skills, while using other players to compensate for any weaknesses.
Therefore, the goal of leadership is not realized by imposing one’s will on others, but instead by helping individuals discover, develop and deploy the creativity and motivation that is already there. Mind you, the process of discovery, development and deployment can be stressful, because it takes honesty and acknowledging weaknesses as a critical step in unleashing anyone’s full talent and capabilities. There is a sense of vulnerability in this process; people are never comfortable facing their weaknesses in the mirror.
Leader of One
This process begins with the leader first, because if we haven’t learned to lead ourselves we can’t possibly lead others. As the old adage
says: “Leader of one, leader of many, if you can’t lead one, you can’t lead any.” That begins with the art of self-awareness. Every morning you start with a glimpse in the mirror and a self-awareness check. The values of humility and confidence must be placed in balance each morning. Thus, the trip from your head to your heart is a long one that must be traveled daily. This “self-awareness” process allows the leader to lead themselves and in turn create influence.
A weakness of Maxwell’s definition of leadership is that it lacks the clarification of inspirational influence. It is sort of taken as a given; however, I have come to realize that nothing should be left for assumption. The connection between influence and leadership is correct, but it does not mean the end result is positive. Great leadership has to provide “inspirational influence” toward a goal that brings value to mankind or has a higher purpose.
Inspirational influence is what brings the “best out of others, or causes them to become their best and the end goal is a justified purpose.” Just plain influence does not necessarily mean you are achieving the best from others. In some situations, a leader can be “influential” but the goal is flawed and the result can be disastrous.
Case In Point
Compare two historic leaders – Hitler and Jesus. Both led masses of people and accomplished many things – both were incredibly gifted motivators, but examine the results – was the end goal of both bringing value to mankind?
I believe Richard Barrett’s definition of leadership is the single best I have ever read: “The courageous pursuit of a vision in such a manner that it resonates with souls of individuals.” Now that is inspirational influence toward a goal of real value! It resonates with the soul, not just the head.
One closing comment on this comparison of leadership: One individual mentioned above was appointed chancellor, and the other was never appointed by any organization or person who lived on the earth. Often we believe that we cannot lead until given an appointment or recognition and that is so wrong. We must lead first, and the appointment comes later. Remember the appointed person created a disaster of unparalleled magnitude while the other continues to lead hundreds of millions in a positive manner.