Authority or Influence?

In early 2001, I read a book by John Maxwell and Jim Dornan called Becoming a Person of Influence. One of the most significant things I remember from the first time going through that book was how John shared that so many of the folks he interacted with who were serving at high levels of their respective organizations seemed to have very little interest any what he was teaching about leadership but those same folks were devouring what he was putting out on developing influence. As executives and upper level managers, they were often of the opinion that they were already leaders so why waste their time learning any more about that. Many of them did, however, recognize a need for learning how they could develop more influence with the individuals reporting to them…

That explanation was the first time I recall John making the statement that “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”

As I was reading that book, fresh off reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership for the very first time, I was learning the ropes in a new role where I was responsible for getting results in a process where the core premise was based around the idea of confidentiality with no disciplinary action. The folks I was counting on to help me achieve those results had volunteered and still had complete reporting responsibility to their home departments and supervisors, most of whom had VERY little interest in whether or not I succeeded in anything or whether or not the initiative I was responsible for lasted through the end of the next month…

To say that I lacked the authority for holding anyone accountable for fulfilling their voluntary commitment is a drastic understatement. And at just 25 years old, I had a long way to go toward earning influence with those volunteers - many of whom raised their hand to help my predecessor and had been with the company nearly as long as I had been alive…

As I learned more about the impact influence really had on effectively leading others, I started reading and listening to everything I could get my hands on that would help me develop ethical influence with each individual I interacted with. I’d love to tell you that this was a simple, magical process that fell into place without any stumbling along the way… That just wasn’t the case! I will say that starting on that journey two decades ago, when I had absolutely no authority, has yielded some amazing dividends.

With many of the events or lessons that Cindy and I host having a direct focus on leadership, we’re frequently asked which people from the organizations we’re working should participate. I usually respond with what I think is a simple answer, anyone who has responsibility for leading others. While that’s nearly always taken to mean anyone who has supervisory responsibility, I actually mean anyone who interacts with other people - EVER

Regardless of role or position, there are few days that go by in any of our lives where we aren’t faced with opportunities to lead the people around us in a way that makes a positive impact on our relationships with them and their lives as a whole. I recently referenced this in a LinkedIn article I published called Lead From Where You Are, and over the next several days in this series we’ll dig into some simple steps we can each apply in doing just that.

Until then, I’ll ask again - do you have your spot reserved so you can join us for the first ever LIVE2LEAD:Harrisonburg Virtual Experience on Friday, October 9? You wouldn’t want to miss it with only the 2020 speaker line up but there are so many bonuses that are included, it’s a steal at just $79!

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