If Leadership Is Influence, What is Influence? How Do I Get It?

What is Influence?

Law #2: The Law of Influence

The #1 leadership expert in the world—John C. Maxwell—says, “Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.” Great. I can remember that. But what is influence? Who do I have influence with? Who has influence over me? What does it mean that I have influence with them? How did I get this influence? What makes me influential? How do I get influence? Without a key understanding of influence, we are stuck trying to achieve it.

So I started looking at other people that have had a great impact in life. I asked what was it about their lives that caused this impact. Mother Teresa had great impact. She sacrificed greatly for others. She led an extremely simple life giving all she had to and for others. Maybe influence is sacrifice…

Musicians, movie stars, and sports stars seem to have influence. People buy their memorabilia. Read about them in magazines. They are used by different causes to give visibility to the cause. By their very existence they seem to have influence. It’s not their character—many superstars have little character. Maybe it’s that they are wealthy. That they are larger than life. They perform amazing feats? Maybe that they entertain us. One thing is for sure—they worked enormously hard to get to where they are. But I don’t think we think that. Maybe influence is appreciation.

Our boss has influence over us. Some bosses have more influence than others. Is it the position and power they are given that influences us? Is it the fear of losing our job? Do we work for them because of their position (Positional Leader) or because they have accomplished so much for the company that we have a lot of respect for them (Production Leader)? Or is it because they have invested a lot into us and we appreciate what they do for us (Pinnacle Leader)?

Whatever your religious beliefs, history has shown that Christ has had the biggest impact and influence on the most people for the longest period of time. There are more books written about Jesus than any other person. And more songs written about him, too. That sounds like a huge amount of influence. Why is that? Was it because he loved so much? According to the Bible, he left his disciples and the world with two great commandments—love God and love your neighbor. Is it love that influences?

The Opposite of Influence

I then looked at the opposite. Who in my life has no influence over me? People I don’t respect for any reason have little influence—even those that are positional in my life—if I have little respect or love for them, I am not easily influenced by them. Although individually you may find a good one, politicians have little influence over me. Yet, they make laws that influence me greatly. Wait. Maybe that’s power, not influence. Is power forced influence?

Some people I will go to the ends of the earth for while still others I won’t give the time of day. You’re the same way. Peoples’ influence over us can be compared to the 5 Levels of Leadership (if leadership is indeed influence). Level 1, Positional Leaders, have the lowest form of influence. They are put over us at work, in school, in government. We work for them because we have to. They don’t have influence over us really—power or control yes, but not really influence

Level 2, Permission Leaders, have gained my permission to lead me by building a relationship with me to some degree—I see that they care (people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care). Level 3, Production Leaders, gain influence for the accomplishments they have made at the company. Their accomplishments are for my benefit as well as the company. I am gaining respect for this leader.

Level 4 leaders, invest their time, energy, money, and thinking into growing others. They are People Developer Leaders. That means they care about me, desire my good, want to see me grow and achieve—and eventually, lead. And finally, Level 5 leaders are Pinnacle Leaders. They transcend industry and society. They give of themselves so much, and care for people and mankind as a whole so much, they gain unswerving influence from the masses. They grow other leaders to grow other leaders to grow…

Pinnacle Leaders

Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus Christ. They gave of themselves for the common good, so that others may live better lives. They gained our respect, our appreciation, our love. They are unassuming, kind, reserved. But they have an incredible resolve that is like no other and press on or die—never giving up.

These are the people that have influence over us, and hence, how we have influence with others. To gain influence and therefore leadership, we must build relationships, be productive and accomplish, invest in others on many levels, and help people achieve high levels of leadership or accomplishment. It’s a form of selflessness, pouring into others through sacrifice.

As Jim Collins noted in his landmark book Good to Great, the true Level 5 leaders are humble and self-deprecating but with huge resolve. It is not based on charisma and a selfish need to gain like so many other leaders. Influence comes from sacrifice, love, kindness, achievement, dying to self and living for others. To give is to gain. If loving others is the second commandment from God, love and sacrifice must have a great impact and influence on everyone.

Reflection: What influence do you have? What is stopping you from gaining the influence you need? Stop and answer this now. Then…

Action: Rate yourself from 1-10 on your level of influence. What should you do immediately and specifically to get that number higher? Decide and do it. Whom can you emulate and learn from who displays high levels of positive influence? Ask them to mentor you. Rate yourself every six months to ensure you measure and adjust—Define & Refine!

Next Law—Law #3—The Law of Process—Am I Ready When Opportunity Knocks.

Make it a great day!

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