Leadership Equals Influence

Josh Babcock, April 8th, 2023 | Leadership

Sleepovers were the best growing up. I liked seeing the true ins and outs of a family. I remember when I went to my friend Jack’s house for a sleepover, his dad would give us a list of rules that we needed to follow. No rough play, only certain snacks, quiet time is after 11pm, etc. After his dad would finally go upstairs, his older brother would give us another run down. After his dad would finally go upstairs, his older brother would give us another run down. “If you want to sneak out, this is how you need to do it, these are the snacks to eat because no one will know they’re gone", and so on. Jake’s dad had authority but his older brother had influence.

Many of you leaders out there can hear John Maxwell’s unmistakable voice saying “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  What does influence really mean? Influence is “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways”.1 Influence starts with your character, building relationships, what you know, what you feel, what your track record looks like and what you can do. I like to break down influence into two ways, direct and indirect.

Direct Influence

Good or bad direct influence just means you are pushing others around a mission or a cause.  It’s the coach directing a team to win a championship, a boss providing clarity on your next product launch, the parents intentionally raising their children to have integrity or even that mischievous friend trying to get the guys to break into the school at night.   Direct just means you are being purposeful about where you are trying to lead others.   This is why many organizations have mission statements so the leader can clearly define a vision for where the company is headed. This is why direct influence is so important because if you don’t choose where you are heading others will decide for you.

Indirect Influence

Indirect Influence is more subtle but still very impactful. It is dealing with something without confronting the situation outright or directly. One of the best examples is children observing how their parents act.  If a parent tells their kid they shouldn’t be scrolling on social media yet they are doing it at the dinner table, they are indirectly influencing them in the wrong direction.  Without using their words these parents are actually telling their kids that scrolling on social media is fine and it’s okay to not abide by the words of authority in their life. On the topic of social media, it also has a huge indirect influence on us. Podcasts, TV, books, all of these things have an influence on us. We literally can’t get away, it’s everywhere.

Not About the Title

Influence has nothing to do with the title that’s authority. In the book How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, Clay Scroggins says “Influence always outpaces authority.” Influence and authority are not mutually exclusive or put another way, they can happen together. It’s just that influence is based more on trust, respect, and knowing the person has your best interests in mind. Authority can have that too and should. On the flip side, if a person is just using their authority to lead through power then people are less likely to have an ownership mentality and commit to the cause.

Next Steps

There are many different tiers of leadership. From a CEO leading the whole company, leading a small group, to a husband leading his family but at the end of the day, we are all leaders. Leadership starts with leading yourself well, there’s no way around it and we all have people we are influencing. The world needs more intentional leaders. We need more people to choose how and who they are living for. We need more people to live with integrity and walk their talk. So my question for you is who is influencing you and whom are you influencing? Are you proud of your leadership and the people in your life that are influencing you? Whether the answer is yes or no, your next step is still the same. That’s growing your leadership. I would suggest doing a self-assessment and figuring out where you are in your leadership journey because we all need to grow. Then after you figure out where you’re at, choose ONE way you want to grow and make it very specific.

Here are a few examples:

  • I want to listen better. I will do this by asking more questions, and reading a book on how to be a more active listener.
  • I need a mentor. I will seek out a person that is a level above me in their leadership and ask them some questions.
  • I want to grow my discipline. I will work on not snoozing my alarm in the morning and I will not look at my phone after 8pm.

Growing your leadership ability is not an overnight success story for anyone.  It starts and continues when you choose to get just 1% better in your daily grind.