A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend about influence (actually wrote a quick thought about it on this blog).
Our talk was specifically about influence and responsibility – how is not defined by the other – and that the two are not equal. Simply because you have been relegated a responsibility within an organization does not equate to influence within the same organization. Responsibility is important. Without the accountability for what we are responsible for accomplishing our jobs would be devalued.
Influence is so much more than responsibility. Influence by definition (dictionary.com):
the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others: He used family influence to get the contract.
the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others: Her mother’s influence made her stay.
a person or thing that exerts influence: He is an influence for the good.
Is your influence expanding or shrinking? One of my biggest strengths over the years has been my sphere of influence. What I have observed is my influence is sometimes diminished depending on how I am viewed in an organization.
Is it better to have a larger role within an organization with less influence? Or should one use the strengths you have and exert your influence?
The conversation with my friend may have helped both of us with the answers. I tend to believe that if your influence is shrinking then something may not be right. Our ability to influence for good is far more important than our organizational status! And on top of that it’s important to remember that our circumstances don’t define who we really are!
Sometimes we are destined to be put in the same circumstances more than once in this life.
Over the past few weeks I have watched a scenerio very similar to past experiences play out in new environments with new participants. Hopefully the outcomes will be more positive than what I have witnessed before.
While both of these existing life lessons are focused on leadership, I believe the core lessons learned can be applied to a marriage, a relationship, a job or any organizational hierarchy.
Lesson One: When you know what you need to do, do it, no matter how hard it is, no matter who needs to be involved, no matter how unpleasant the conversation will be. By not doing what you need to do, you are postponing the inevitable or worse creating an environment for failure. Your organization is more important than avoiding the necessary.
Lesson Two: Surround yourself with good advisors and heed their advice! I have always been a proponent of not only surrounding myself with people smarter than me but also including others who don’t think the same way as I do all the time. Differing opinions are good – they make me consider other points of view. Sometimes I am persuaded by others and sometimes the differeing views help me in defining my own decisions and action plans. Bottom line is there is always someone who may have a better idea than you – listen to it!
Unfortunately I once was a leader who didn’t head lesson one. Fortunately I learned from that mistake!
One of the very first leadership lessons I learned was by observing a boss of mine. Not only was he in charge according to the organization chart and he was the one who approved my pay and leave time – he was actually a leader by example.
This man actually walked the walk – not just talked the talk. He jumped in and got his hands dirty when it was required. He didn’t just tell me and others to do the things no one else wanted to do.
He had the tough conversations with staff as soon as they needed to be held. He didn’t wait until situations got out of hand and were impossible to reign in.
He prepared for presentations and other public interactions – he didn’t just wing it.
He made sure he interacted with his organization on a daily basis – he knew what they were doing and what projects they were working on and what their suggestions were for a better organization and product. He didn’t seclude himself from others or make it hard to meet with him.
He stood up for his followers (employees) – not just when things went awry as they sometimes do but publicly praised them regularly.
Perhaps most of all, this leader wanted those who were on his team to succeed – whether it was within his organization or beyond it. He cared about people.
He led by example. What kind of leader are you?