The concept of leadership in itself is not unique in our society today. Everyone you meet that has a general understanding of adulthood, has their perception of who a leader is.
Most times, these different perspectives especially in our society today are flawed by the concept of hierarchy; simply put the concept of a boss or political power.
I cannot, in any case, understate how flawed that idea/perspective is in general, as a matter of fact, one of the world’s foremost leadership coach and mentor John C Maxwell defines leadership as an influence; Yes…Just influence.
So if leadership is influence, then what is influence or how can you attain influence?
This article will try to briefly define what true influence is and how you can build that. But as you read, take note that I am also in a journey to becoming a more refined and fulfilled leader, so it is your responsibility to continually grow and not use this article as your go-to-tool.
Now that we have established this, let us dive in; A friend of mine and I were having a conversation about a scenario that had recently played out. As I vent out to him calling out the misuse of power, and the often shared corruptibility of it by the people that wield it. He stopped me…almost abruptly and said: “There comes a time when everyone has to choose between good or bad, it is a natural dispensation that you cannot be good and bad at the same time and power simple magnifies what side of the line you are”.
In context, there is nothing like an in-between leader.
You are either a bad leader or a good one, it is your choice to choose which one you are or will become.
Having influence, simply means that you are respected, trusted, admired, likeable, motivating enough to be listened to and be followed; this cannot be simpler.
Being a leader means that you are able to constantly find the delicate balance of influence; Influence in itself is simply the ability to have an effect on people, enough to bring about change.
In his book “How to win friends and influence people” Dale Carnegie argued that you cannot influence people without getting to know them. Do you want to know my summary? Simply put, a leader cannot rule from the mountain tops.
If you are going to have a natural influence on people, you have to be seen with them, be amongst them, listen to them, learn from their predicament, share their successes and understand their failures but more importantly be seen as one of them.
What makes a leader great is genuine compassion and empathy that they have for the people they lead. In more philosophical basis, it has been argued a lot of times that while leaders have power, they “truly” do not use power; leaders are merely custodians of power. While understanding that the power they have at any given time is simply not theirs but it belongs to the people they lead.
As you read along, you will notice that I have placed a lot of emphasis on people and how to influence them, the reason for this is simple; leadership is about people. John C Maxwell said “ Great leaders value their team more than they value their vision/dream”, this is to say, without people no matter how valuable your vision/dream is, you will not realise it.
You may start wondering, well I do not lead people so how do I become a leader? Simple; influence yourself.
The society we live in today has sub-consciously implanted the idea that being a leader means you either have political power or you are a boss. This is not the entire truth! Yes….A leader can be a custodian of political power. Yes…. A leader can also be a boss (by being at top of the organogram), but that is not entirely who a leader is. In fact, great leaders are often described as a servant, they do not come as a regular boss, nor do they come as political authorities, they come as one of “us” (with emphasis on us).
What I am trying to say is that you do not need to have people you are actively leading to start your journey into becoming a great leader; in fact, if at all you do not have influence, be a partner with someone who has influence and build yours by learning from them. Never forget that in whatever you do; leadership starts with YOU.
As I close, allow me to reiterate, being a leader is a constant process of growth. If you are looking to influence people, you must understand that it is not a static process. People change, so does their circumstances, their perspectives and so on, to be a great leader you have to be in a constant acknowledgement that you have to grow continuously.
To grow continuously you have to take responsibility for yourself!