Since this blog is primarily about leadership then we should define what a leader is. As my mentor Orrin Woodward says,”Leadership is influence.” Influence means that someone is following you. John Maxwell says,”If you call yourself a leader and no one is following you then you are just out for a walk.” So it appears that having influence is key to becoming a leader. We have all been in the situation where a group is discussing what they want to do or what they should do. The group hasn’t made a decision yet because they are waiting for a key person to give their input. That key person is called the influencer. It may be the person that has the title of leader or it may be someone that doesn’t have the title of leader but none the less the group is always looking for what the main influencer has to say. That is what we want to discuss. How do you become the E.F. Hutton? When you talk everyone is listening. If you don’t know what that previous statement is referencing then I am really starting to get old.
Below is the pyramid of influence according to Stephen Covey. The foundation is built on example, then by relationships and finally by teaching. This is a great illustration of what it takes to become an influencer and it is a great illustration to remove peoples false ideas about leadership. Most people believe that being the leader means you are the best at teaching or the best at relationships but that is untrue. They are key components but the most important thing in leadership is modeling the correct behavior. This should be a very freeing idea for most of us. We just have to model the right behaviors long enough that we are elevated to the position of leader. This is actually the best way to become a leader. The term is called reluctant leader. This means you didn’t start out thinking I want to be the leader, you just did the right things long enough that someone started calling you a leader.
Example ( other see ) is the foundation and also the hardest because it requires us to change ourselves. Our human nature would much rather tell people what to do then actually do it ourselves. That is called managing. The United States is in a leadership crisis because everyone is so focused on others instead being focused on themselves. Managing will never create true influence. They may have a positional or authoritative influence but not leadership influence. To create true influence we must grow ourselves and create the culture that we want to have. There is a statement that says,”The leader creates the culture and then the culture grows the group.” That culture is created by who we are not what we say. You want to be the example of the culture you want to create. I would suggest to start reading some of the foundational books on human nature. How to win friends and influence people, Bringing out the best in people, Attitude is everything, Personality plus, The magic of thinking big, How to have confidence and power in dealing with people, Resolved, Eat that frog, The seven habits of highly effective people. If the goal is to be the example of the culture you want to create then reading is not a choice it is a must. Determine what you want the culture of your organization to be and start attacking those items and master them.
Relationships ( how others feel ) is the next layer to build on. We have to make people feel better then they feel about themselves. Do you assume the best in others? I see people create issues that don’t exist because they assume the worst. Seek first to understand. Try to see from the others person view and completely understand before we start to make judgments. Admit your mistakes and cover up other peoples mistakes. If you even think you have offended someone apologize to them. If someone in your organization hurt someone else’s feelings, you apologize for it. Why do this because that person and your relationship with that person is more important then whatever happened. Follow the three A’s principle. Accept, approve, appreciate. The old African proverb says,”Look at a man as he is and he only becomes worse, look at him as he could be and he will become what he should be.” We have the power to give people the freedom to become better.
Teach ( what others hear ) To me the teaching aspect means something different then what it means to most people. When I think of teaching I am not thinking of the exact do’s and don’ts. That is an important piece of the teaching but the science, of what to do, is not as important as the art of what to do. there is a quote that says something like,”The man that knows what will always be at the mercy of the man that knows why.” Its not enough to just count on people knowing what to do. If you only teach people what or count on your system to teach them what then they will always have to come back to you to learn why the what didn’t work. If you teach them the “why” or the principle behind the “what” then they will always know how to do the “what” correctly. If your the leader then there is a reason why. You understand something that the rest of the crowd doesn’t yet. It doesn’t mean they can’t it just means you need to teach from a different level.