John Maxwell’s one word definition of leadership is this: Influence
I agree, sort of. Only sort of because what you do doesn’t make you a leader, why you do it does.
Dictionaries define influence as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
Everyone has at least a little influence. We all have some effect the behavior of those around us, just as they have some effect on ours. We have that effect whether we intend to or not. So does that mean everyone is a leader whether they intend to be or not? I would say no.
That means we probably cannot define leadership with just one word. We need two.
Intentional influence. Okay, maybe we need three words…. Intentional directed influence.
Wandering around influencing others does not make you a leader. Being keenly aware of your influence and using it to intentionally change behavior and build character makes you a leader.
Now, for those of you who do not currently have a fancy title or top position and believe you need one to be a leader let me say this:
People don’t follow titles or positions. They follow people and the people they choose to follow are the ones who they believe care about them enough to help them succeed.
Now, for those of you who do have a title or position and believe that makes you a leader let me say this:
If your influence comes only from your title or position then you may be a manager, you may be a boss, but you’re almost certainly not a leader. Your title may give you a little higher level of influence temporarily but consider this…
If you lost your title, lost your position, lost your authority to reward and discipline, would you get the same results from the people around you? Would your influence level remain high? Would people still follow you?
Those are huge questions. To answer yes you need an amazing amount of confidence in your leadership ability. I hope you were able to answer yes. Be aware however, the brights lights of important sounding titles and lofty positions can blind even the most well intentioned person to their shortcomings. So if you answered yes I also hope your people would agree with you. If you AND your people agree then there can be no doubt; you are truly a leader.
Influencing others is a part of life, intentionally influencing others is the essence of leadership. Don’t squander your chance at leadership by just letting influence happen. Be intentional with how you influence, influence to build, influence to build people and organizations. Develop positive influence.
When your influence is positive your leadership can outlast you. That’s great leadership!