A Developmental Moment #4: What Does Influence Mean and Why Does it Matter?

The Differences Between Internal and External Influence and Their Relationship to Service

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As I was pondering the next developmental moment, and was considering influence as a topic, I had to stop, and reflect upon the past three years. What to say about influence?

Well, as with most things in my life today, an insight did occur, which will now come out through me and to you. Fun.

Alright, so influence is an important topic when you are leading teams; and, well, I do believe it is an important topic in everyone’s development, regardless of their iteration of self-development, or their interest in leadership. Why?

Because, we all will, at some point, apply for a job, need to grow our network, and, or, seek new areas of self-expression. And, to be fully self-expressed, or, rather, to self-express yourself fully, it is nice to understand the concept of influence. Let’s do just that then. Take a look at how I interpret the concept of influence.

Ready? Good. Here we go.

influence

verb /ˈɪnfluəns/ 

to have an effect on the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially by giving them an example to follow.

influence something, influence how, where, etc. to have an effect on a particular situation and the way that it develops.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

There we go.

Alright, so here’s what we have for influence; to have an effect on a particular situation and the way it develops, or the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially in regard to providing them an example to follow.

Now let’s discuss influence in two different ways. Let’s take a look at internal influence, and external influence. Both are important, and both are needed. Here we go.

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Internal Influence

When I write the phrase internal influence, I am referring to your influence within the business, organization, or institution in which you work.

Understanding influence as an opportunity to build cultural capital inside of the business, organization, or institution in which you work is important for a leader to consider. If your influence wanes, it may be hard, for example, to garner political support on a project your team is working on.

However, if your influence is strong, or even adequate, garnering support will be easier. Pretty simple.

What I’ve found to be most true about internal influence is that being who you really are is of utmost importance. Meaning, to be the authentic leader you know yourself to be.

Yes, we all have to make concessions at times, and, yet, we all have the creative power to effect change. And, this is true, even when our influence is bourgeoning.

A quick aside. Influence, like most things in life, lives along a spectrum. Meaning, that influence is not binary. You gain influence over time; and, it takes time.

Maybe you’re asking yourself, okay, well, how do we create influence, and effect change. Here are a few important considerations for those interested in increasing their internal influence.

  1. Relationships – as I’ve written many times, everything starts with relationships. The one we have with ourselves, yes, and then with everyone else. Being in a relationship means having easy and difficult conversations. Remembering this truth is important in leadership.
  2. Questions – asking questions is always an important step in creating influence. Often, people shy away from asking the tough questions. Ask them. It is important to your own development, and that of your teams.
  3. Creativity – being open, flexible, and innovative, is an important aspect of influencing the future. Without creativity, the past is the future, a stamped reproduction. Thus, being open to new ideas, those from your peers, and your team is essential.
  4. Integrity – doing what we say we are going to do is important to all aspects of our lives, and there is no exception in creating influence. If we are unable to make it to a meeting, or are going to be late, communicate. Open communication ensures that we are always keeping everyone in the conversation, and keeping our integrity intact.
  5. Authenticity – be who you are. You are just as you are supposed to be, so embrace your unique-self, and let that shine. There is only one you, which means there’s not another person on the planet that can create influence, or anything else for that matter, just like you. When we are authentic, people know, and respect our truth. And, if they don’t? Remember, that’s their issue. Not yours. Be who you are.

Alright, there are five examples, and considerations for you, on how to create influence within a business, organization, or institution. Remember, influence takes time to cultivate. It’s kind of like gardening. You must water your relationships, questions, creativity, integrity, and authenticity, and, when you do, you will see your influence grow.

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External Influence

External influence is similar to internal influence, and yet, also different. You can use the five considerations aforementioned with those clients, students, or customers, that are external to your business, organization, or institution. And?

There are a couple more strategies for you to consider. Here we go.

  1. Engagement – being fully engaged at all times with those you serve is important. Meaning, that it is important to create an engagement system that you can rely upon, which will ensure your engagement is, well, like a drum beat. Your clients, students, or customers need to rely upon your engagement pattern. I write about developing my LinkedIn engagement system in the post, A Blogger’s Diary 12/27/20: On Writing, Goal-Setting, Systems, and the Holidays, which can serve as one of many examples to draw upon.
  2. Consistency – a drum beat, or pattern, on which your clients, students, or customers can rely. Important. There are lots of ways to ensure you stay on track with your engagement. You can calendar your engagements, enter them into a project management software system, or keep them in a planner. The tool matters far less, than the output of making sure to engage regularly and consistently.
  3. Reciprocity – relationships are built upon many things, and reciprocity is one. Being in relationships means sharing yourself with your clients, students, or customers. And doing so in a genuine way. Remember, people know when we are inauthentic. They can see, hear, and feel it. Just be who you are, and reciprocate.
  4. Value – our clients, students, or customers want to know they are valued. They would like value, and to know they are valued. Both. Providing value comes in many forms, and it’s not always, actually rarely, monetary. It’s about being there for your clients, students, or customers. Taking care of them, treating them with kindness, and valuing their needs.
  5. Service – in the end, it’s all about service. All of it. The service we give ourselves, and the service we give out to our clients, students, or customers. When we value our service, we are always looking for, and creating, new ways to serve. Whether that is through a new business model, a new product, or a new service. Really. Ultimately, it’s about understanding the need, reflecting on that need, and creating a bridge for that need.

Internal and external influence matter. It’s not about ego. We are leaving ego at the door. It’s about service. About taking care of people. Finding out what they need, and working with them to fill that need.

When we are in relationship with people, we are in a unique position to serve.

And, as we continue to serve, our influence grows. Influence grows as we grow and deepen our relationships. The relationships we have with those we serve. Ultimately, it’s our peers, teams, clients, students, and customers that let us know about our influence.

When we have movement in our relationships, we can see it and feel it; and, when we have traction, we know, because reciprocity flourishes as we enter into new relationships each day. And, as we enter into more relationships, our service grows; and, yes, we also grow. Fun.

#authenticity, #consistency, #creativity, #development, #developmentalmoment, #engagement, #externalinfluence, #influence, #integrity, #internalinfluence, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #questions, #reciprocity, #relationships, #self-development, #service, #value

The Leadership Series Part 1: What is Leadership, and Why is it so Important?

Leadership As A Part of Everyday Life

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I am always thinking about, learning about, and practicing leadership. Really. Always. It is such an important concept and practice. Yes, professionally, and even more importantly, for me, in every aspect of my life.

Why?

Well, that’s what we’ll look at in this new series. There are so many questions to look at and discuss when it comes to leadership. Seriously. So many. Here are just a couple.

  • Why is leadership such an important concept?
  • Why is it so important to practice?
  • Why is it important to understand?
  • What are the types of leadership?
  • Why are there so many types?
  • What’s the right type for me?
  • How do I become a leader?

And? Oh, there are so many more.

Alright, in this first article, we are going to unpack leadership as a concept and practice. Ready? Great. Let’s get started by defining leadership. Yep. here we go.

leadership

Pronunciation /ˈlēdərˌSHip/ /ˈlidərˌʃɪp/ 

See synonyms for leadership

Translate leadership into Spanish

NOUN

The action of leading a group of people or an organization.

The state or position of being a leader.

The leaders of an organization, country, etc.

Lexico

Okay. Here we see that leadership is identified with leading a group of people or organization or being in a leadership position.

Yet, what does that really mean?

Before we get to that question, let’s try one more definition. The definitions are all a little different. Here we go.

leadership

noun US  /ˈliː.dɚ.ʃɪp/ UK  /ˈliː.də.ʃɪp/

the set of characteristics that make a good leader

the position or fact of being the leader

Cambridge Dictionary

Alright, we now have an additional concept in this new definition. Leadership in this definition is also associated with a particular set of characteristics. Yet, which ones? Hm. Confusing.

And, now?

Well, let’s assuage some of our confusion by unpacking these definitions, shall we? Good. Here we go.

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Leadership as Leading People

Right, so leading people. Yes, yes, that is a part of leadership. Or, as I usually like to write, one piece of a whole. The whole you ask? Good question.

The whole of leadership as a principle and practice is a system. And, like all systems, it starts with each of us. The way we think and feel about leadership; our hopes, dreams, goals, and objectives. Yep, all of them.

In fact, all leadership starts with leading oneself. What does that mean?

It means that the way we treat ourselves, the principles and values we believe in, and the way we practice those principles and values are exactly how we lead.

Some people think that you can lead your life at home one way, and then lead your life at work in another way. Not so. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It just doesn’t work.

How you lead at home is the same as the way you lead at work. They are one.

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Some of you right now might be thinking, as I once did, that’s not true; I have a set of values at home and a different set of values at work.

However, I am inviting you to consider that, in fact, believing that we hold different values at home than we hold at work is mere confusion. And?

That confusion will seep out into all that we do.

We can call that discord. And, that discord will confuse you, yes, and everyone else around you. Really. And, with confusion comes tension, disagreement, and disengagement.

The soultion?

Well, getting clear on your principles and values is a start. As is understanding why you treat yourself as you do; meaning, creating an awareness of yourself for yourself. Important. Then?

Let go of the principles and values that no longer serve you, and create new ones. We are creative beings first, and leaders second. All of us. Create symmetry between the self you are at home and the self you are at work.

You are one person after all. Create the leader you know yourself to be. One step at a time. Then?

Creating leadership symmetry

  1. What are your hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
  2. What do you value and why?
  3. Why are you the person you are today?
  4. Why do you do what you do?

And, then?

Create symmetry between your personal life and your professional life. As was aforementioned, they are one and the same anyway. Time to connect the two. There is tremendous power in this conceptual and practical example. And, then?

Well, with symmetry and practice, you will lead people. And, you will lead them from a space that is centered and clear on what you intend to create.

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Leadership as a Position

Leadership is not a position. Director, supervisor, and manager are a position, or even better yet, are a title.

Leadership is a philosophy and a practical way you live your life. Every aspect of your life in fact. If you think about leadership as a position, then?

You will create separateness between leadership and other aspects of your life. And, as we’ve just discussed, that leads to confusion and disengagement. You from yourself, and your team from you.

It is inevitable. People know when we are genuine and authentic. They can feel it, they can see it, and they can hear it. Simple.

One of the reasons people struggle in leadership is they are not clear on who they are as a human being. Listen, it’s not a demerit. I once had this same issue, and?

It’s hard. Very hard.

When you are not clear on who you are, how can you be clear on who your team is? You cannot. It’s just not possible. What is possible?

Get clear on you

  • Why are you a leader?
  • What do you value in leadership?
  • What types of leadership do you associate yourself with?
  • What kinds of impact do you want to make in this world?
  • What change do you want to create?

I could go on. Well, and we will, in future posts. For now, know that there are two things at this stage that are critical.

  1. Understanding yourself.
  2. Understanding your leadership style.

And, we will cover both of these topics in the next two articles. Now, let’s take a look at leadership as characteristics.

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Leadership as Characteristics

There are many places to look for and find lists, articles, even whole books on leadership characteristics. And?

Well, it is important to understand these characteristics, yet it is just as important to understand that these characteristics are a product of what leaders believe and think, and how they act.

Meaning, that understanding characteristics are only as good as actually developing a relationship with yourself, and understanding how that relationship will translate into your personal leadership style.

Here are a few leadership characteristics I think are pretty important.

  • Authenticity
  • Inspiration
  • Vulnerability
  • Influence
  • Clarity
  • Vision
  • Grit
  • Determination
  • Perseverance
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Self-awareness
  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Passion

Know there are many more. These are the ones I’m most present to now, and the ones that I’m always present to actually.

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Leadership as Life

I prefer to think about and practice leadership as another part of my life. A very important part of my life. Really.

If we think about leadership in regard to taking care of and leading ourselves through life, and then expand that to include the other people in our lives, it’s very important.

Let’s close this first installment with a few quotes, shall we? Good. Here we go.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Benchmark

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Benchmark

“As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.” – Lao Tzu

Benchmark

There we go.

Inspiration is an important part of leadership. And? Well, the leader must first find their inspiration, as we’ve discussed, and, then? It will go out to everyone else. Fun.

Ah, yes, collaboration is such an important leadership characteristic. Difficult, and yet so much fun and so worth the process.

I am fond of saying to the team I work on something like, you know we chose to institute the collaborative model we use today. It’s not the easiest way to do things, yet we believe it is the best way.

Lao Tzu makes a lovely point here about influence. When a team is rallied around a common purpose or goal, it is infectious, and it is as if the leader simply disappears. In fact, each person on the team, in their own way, becomes a leader. Beautiful.

Alright, we’ve made it to the conclusion of the first entry into this new series on leadership. And, I am excited about continuing it with you.

In the next installment, we will take a look at leadership from the perspective of the self. It is, as we’ve discussed, where everything starts.

And, it is exactly where we will start again next time.

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