Leadership Lessons: Influence (If You Think You’re Not A Leader…Think Again)

“Leadership” is a complicated term that we readily misuse. Rather than tackling the whole concept, let’s look at it through a specific prism: influence.

You are a more powerful force than you may recognize when you truly understand how a person successfully leads others, including oneself.

I will let you in on a secret. Leadership is not just the guy in front. It is not just the woman who’s face appears on the website or brochure. Leadership is actually everyone involved; the behind the scenes, the employees, volunteers, and supporters – it’s a spider web of influence. A “leader” is a person who knows their strengths but more importantly, knows their limitations. They also recognize the strengths and weaknesses of those surrounding them and are capable of accessing their influence. Typically, we are made to believe it’s just one person making something function and calling all the shots (which is really “management”). Any person in a position of power is influenced by those they surround themselves with and anyone can emerge as a leader at any time if they understand the value of influence.

Leadership, in the context of influence, is actually a cycle – a constantly moving circle. I will give you an example from my experience with Martial Arts. If I am teaching a group of students, my eyes quickly focus, not on the ones who have mastered my instruction, but the ones who are struggling to understand. They quickly become the “leaders”, because they are telling me I have not done my job correctly. They begin influencing me to change my approach and become flexible. They have my full attention and what I learn from them will be instrumental for my continuous quest to be the Leader I want to be. It’s a circle. Even if you feel discouraged because you’re, “doing it all wrong”, you are actually in a powerful position to influence. And I remain a competent leader because I have the ability to recognize that fact.

Imagine what changing your mentality could do? Leadership is not only for the “people in charge”. You have the capacity to change lives and outcomes by wielding influence. Pay attention to the influence you possess beginning with the realization that everything you do holds the opportunity for influence.

In Martial arts, we call it control. The lesson is this: in a dynamic interaction (a fight let’s say), I can’t control my opponent. I can; however, control myself…

my thinking…

my emotions…

my behavior.

In doing so, I become intentional in my actions and INFLUENCE the behavior of my opponent. It is this concept that makes it possible for an older, wiser martial artist to defeat a younger, stronger opponent. In fact, I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

The path to leadership is never ending. The twists and turns and highs and lows represent learning, growing, changing and appreciating the process to achieving success. And one of the cornerstones of Leadership is harnessing the power of Influence.