Friday, May 17, 2013

Lead through Influence

It is human nature to strive for position.  We think it will fulfill our need for recognition and significance.  We are convinced that we cannot truly accomplish something until we are given full authority.  By having the official title, we think people will then listen to us and follow our lead.

In striving for position, we focus our energy on getting promoted.  We try to make a good impression on the top leader by building a relationship with them and also by showing that we can get things done.  In order to do that, we sometimes bypass or ignore the people working around us.  By the time the position finally comes, we then wonder why people won't respond to our leadership.  We have not taken the time to nurture those relationships and earn their trust. 

I look back in my first years as a young leader making these mistakes.  My motives were well-intended.  I am a passionate, driven person that wants to accomplish great things.  I feel a sense of expectation on my life as I have had people invest in me.   Growing up, I was inspired by leaders who were charismatic and driven, and I wanted to model them.

The angle of position that I could not see being in the audience were the responsibilities attached to it. When you are given position, a group of people are suddenly putting their trust in you - in fact, they are loaning you their trust for a time.  These people automatically have great expectations of you (hopefully clearly stated....but usually not.) They expect you to care about what is important to them.  They expect you to fix problems, especially people problems.

What I soon found out with position is: 

With authority comes much responsibility

The leader is  responsible for the success of the organization.  The leader is responsible both for the big events and for the small details.  The leader is responsible for coming up with the vision AND making sure everyone knows and can communicate the vision.  The leader must work the hardest, have the greatest faith, always display maturity, have the best attitude, and sacrifice the most.

Here is what I have learned:

First lead by influence

Don't wait for a position before you begin - make an impact today.  Start leading today.  The great thing about not yet having a position is that you can "lead" through influence, without carrying all of the responsibility.  Right now, you can experiment and take some risks without fearing the consequences of failure or disappointing people.  After all, you shouldn't seek position anyway.  People dislike hierarchy and entitlement attitude.   However, people are inspired by individuals who are passionate, authentic and who show courage by taking initiative.  In fact, I think the best way a person can lead is by not saying one word - no speech.  They simply begin doing what they feel called to do, what they are passionate about.  Others watch, and some eventually start to follow.  

Conclusion: we certainly need great people in leadership positions.  But wise leaders learn quickly that leading through influence is much stronger than leading by title and authority. 

Challenge: Begin leading by working the hardest, showing commitment, going above and beyond.  Serve others on your team and help promote them.  When the time is right, step out and take a risk.  Go first.  Be courageous.  Then, watch others slowly begin to join you.  If your vision is clear and it takes everyone to a better place, people will begin to follow.

Who said leadership is lonely? :)