If Leadership is Influence, Are You a Leader?

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority” – Kenneth Blanchard

What is leadership really?

When we think of leaders we often think of politicians (prime ministers, presidents, royalty), business leaders (CEOs, chairmen, managing directors) or even religious leaders (Bishops, Popes, priests). But what is a leader really?

At the end of the day, a leader is someone who has the ability to lead.

I know that sounds like a non-definition, but if you think about it for a moment it is true. A leader is someone who leads people-he or she has followers.

John Maxwell regularly quotes the proverb: “If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”

And isn’t that true? If no one is following you then you’re not really leading-no matter how much of a “leader” you try to appear.

So, if a leader is someone who has followers what is it that leaders do? Essentially leaders influence people-they influence others to follow them. Now, you can force people to do what you want by threatening to hurt them, to fire them, to reduce their pay, etc. But that is not leadership. Leadership is about influencing as opposed to controlling. It is about encouraging and motivating others to take action not about forcing them to do it.

Leadership is influence-it is encouraging others to follow. If we come back to the question of who are leaders we will find that this definition encompasses a much greater cross-section of people. For leadership is not about position. It is not about having a title, because there are plenty of people that have a title but no-one is following them.

Leadership is about learning to influence others irrespective of title or position. That doesn’t mean that we manipulate others because again that would come back to control. It is about influencing and affecting others-those around you.

On that basis, let me ask you the question at the top of this page – are you a leader? If you think about it, there will be people in your life that will listen to you-who will be influenced at some level by what you do and what you say. Whether it is your family, your work colleagues, your friends or acquaintances-what you do and who you are has an impact. On that basis you are a leader because you influence those around you.

Now, you may say that people don’t take much notice of you or you don’t really have influence on those around you. That may or may not be true but simply identifying the fact that you are a leader enables you to start a process of developing potential in you. Because there is potential in you to be a eader-to develop an understanding of how to influence, grow, encourage and inspire those around you.

Today, take a few moments to reflect on how you influence those around you and commit to developing your ability to encourage, lead and inspire them.

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