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Leadership is Influence

By Lenny Konschewitz

“The true measure of leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” – John C. Maxwell

On this platform we all have something in common: we see ourselves as leaders. Leadership has become part of our lives. We are constantly surrounded by people who either lead us or people we lead. The leadership challenge is everywhere and if we listen carefully, on every level of society and in every nation there seems to be a constant call for “better leaders”. But how do we actually measure leadership? What do we need to understand to become better leaders? I believe the answer lies in the quote above taken from one of the most notable leadership experts in the world, John C. Maxwell. The simple answer is: Influence.

Many people today think that they are leaders because they have a certain title or position. Conversely, lacking a title or position, many automatically disqualify themselves from seeing themselves as leaders. However, as Stanley Huffty once said, “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.” Leadership does not start with a position; it starts with influencing others. We can never achieve great leadership by being granted a more sophisticated title or higher pay grade. Becoming a true leader is something we need to earn as we learn to influence others. Organisations that rely heavily on volunteers (including most churches and ministries) depend on leaders who are great influencers because they can’t use salary cuts or similar tools to “motivate” their staff. A brilliant example for me in this context is Mother Teresa. In 2012, her organization consisted of 4,500 staff (most of them unpaid!) in 133 countries. What an incredible leadership challenge! And it all started with her influencing the lives of the poorest of the poor.

So, how can we increase our influence and, thus, become better leaders? Here are three simple steps that will challenge us:

1) Identify your circle of influence. Take a piece of paper and draw a large circle on it. Now write inside all the names and/or people clusters that you currently influence. This exercise helps us become aware that in fact everybody is already a leader because we all influence others. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 people during his or her lifetime. What incredible leadership potential and value is “lost” when people don’t understand that leadership simply means influence!

2) Add value to others. What are you currently doing to serve the people in your circle of influence? The fastest way to earn leadership in others’ lives is to make their lives better. Be intentional about discovering and implementing strategies that add value to your people. The key word here is “intentional”. Adding value doesn’t just happen. It needs to be planned and lived out. God’s call to leadership is never a call to rule over others but to serve others. At the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Dortmund, Germany, in 2018, John C. Maxwell spoke about this topic saying that in the end, followers always subconsciously ask their leaders three questions: “Do you care for me? Can I trust you? Can you help me?” Intentionally adding value will help them find the answers.

3) Show the way AND go the way. People hate hypocrites who preach water and drink wine. Always lead by example and never expect those that follow you to go where you are not willing to go yourself. In the end, this is a matter of character. Jesus is our ultimate example. He always went first: to the people, upon the waves, to the sick, to the cross, to the grave, up to the Father, etc. Only the one who goes first has the right and authority to say, “Follow me”.

Some Questions

In your personal leadership journey, who has most influenced you, and what made their influence so effective?

Which other steps have you identified as being valuable influence-increasers?

Who in your circle of influence could you share this leadership principle with to help them understand the significant impact their influence on others can have?

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