In my last article, I made a point about how everything rises and falls on leadership. Many of my readers and clients have since said that they couldn’t agree more! If this is an established fact, then join me again as I explore what leadership really means.
I’m sure you have heard various definitions of leadership. Some are as long as a full paragraph with complicated words, others are simply not exhaustive. Fortunately, this article aims to break it down in simple terms.
Leadership simply means INFLUENCE. Nothing more and nothing less. The true measure of your leadership is influence. Consequently, if there are low levels of influence, logically it means there are low levels of leadership and the reverse is true. Let me point out at the onset that true influence is that which emanates from RESPECT rather than force or manipulation.
Influence is about having a vision and a following behind that vision. It is being able to cast that vision, and create ownership for it. Have you ever heard of a quote that says that “whoever is leading and no one is following is simply taking a walk”? Or that when a true leader speaks people listen?
Margaret Thatcher once said that “being in power is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, then you’re not”. I couldn’t agree more. Many of us have at one time in our professional lives encountered bosses who reminded us that they are bosses, quoting their titles. Why do you think they felt the need to do that? If you ever hear that, simply know that this is an indication of their level of influence and therefore leadership.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I have learned in my research on this subject is that Influence comes from valuing people and valuing what they value. How can you lead people and create a strong team when you are not a people person? As a manager, who is an introvert by nature, I remember relating less with my team and only meeting with them when it was absolutely necessary to review results, and performance.
Every introvert out there knows how difficult it is to step out of the comfort zone and deal with things that involve people in your space! As a leader, being closed in is not an option. I had to learn this through a hard way, I became bold enough to get close to my team, understand their personal stories, dreams and hopes.
I had to authentically communicate to them; seek ways to add value and help them grow. I started seeing my influence skyrocket and reaping more results with much ease. Results that came in without strife, threats or intimidation.
To conclude, let me take you to a discussion I had in one of the classes I took that centered around the three questions that followers subconsciously ask the leaders.
1. Does he/she care? Through your verbal and non-verbal communication, your people will be subconsciously gauging to see if you actually care. I believe many of us can borrow a leaf from the leadership style the Rwanda government has adopted for many years. One excellent example I should highlight here to answer this question is the citizens outreach programme, conducted by President Paul Kagame.
It is a time when regular people “abaturage” talk about their pain, issues, and challenges that they want Government leadership to help them solve. This programme seeks to lend an ear to the people and it is a strong signal to the followers that says “we value you and we care”! What do you intentionally do to show that you value your team members and that you care?
2. Can he/she help me? Your influence will be affected by your ability to demonstrate that you can actually help to get things done. Your team must feel that you are actually able! Zig Ziglar summed it this way, ‘you can have what you want if you will help enough other people get what they want”.
General Collin Powell once said “the day your soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stop leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you don’t care. Either case is a failure of leadership”. What are you doing today to help your team?
3. Can I trust him/her? The followers are asking, does your track record confirm that you are the kind that can be trusted. This speaks to your integrity and values as a leader. Your followers are wondering, can I take her/his word as a “bond”? If the answer is no, then this leader will always use force or manipulation to influence but it will never be out of respect.
So how influential are you as a leader? Growing your influence may not be as complicated as you may think.
Simply value people and value what they value. I keep saying that I wish I knew then what I know now! This is why I’m on a mission to advocate for and create a support system for professionals in leadership positions to help them become people of influence – because the true measure of leadership is influence.
The writer is an independent certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. Prior to this, she served as an operations manager and project specialist at United Nations Population Fund, both in Rwanda and at the UN/HQ, NYC. - www.ab-leadership.comFollow https://twitter.com/Leadership_SOLN