The premier American author on leadership, John Maxwell, says that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.
I wholeheartedly agree with that, wholeheartedly with a bunch of conditions. The conditions all have to do with where influence comes from.
Influence doesn’t just happen, influence, like pretty much everything else in life must be earned. When you’re promoted to a leadership position the position comes with a certain degree of influence. The influence that comes with a position however is very perishable, it comes with an expiration date that more closely resembles milk rather than cheese. It doesn’t last long.
Soon after being promoted to a leadership position you must begin to earn your influence. Your level of influence rises and falls based on your integrity, your ability to make decisions, the quality of your judgement, and your willingness to demonstrate to people that you actually care about them.
By the way, your level of influence is impacted by those same factors whether you occupy a leadership position or not. That’s why it is completely unnecessary to hold a position of leadership in order to lead. It’s your level of influence that provides you with an opportunity to lead, not a title or a position.
A good many people in leadership positions fail to realize just how perishable their influence really is. They start thinking they “have arrived” and that people will continue to follow them no matter what. That is simply not the case.
If you’re a person who truly wants to lead then you must work to grow your level of influence every day. You must make certain that your words match your actions. You must make the decisions that non-leaders are unwilling or unable to make. Those decisions must be right far more often then they are wrong.
You also must actually care about the people you would lead. People will not follow an uncaring leader. If you’re not the type of person who is willing to invest yourself in someone else’s success then you will struggle as a leader. That doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means you’re likely a better follower than leader.
To become an influential leader don’t try to become a leader, try to become an influential person. When you develop the qualities required to grow your influence then the leadership opportunities will find you.