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How to Develop Leadership Through Influence

How to Develop Leadership throu Influence Graphic 12JUN2017

“Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.”
John C. Maxwell

These words ring in my ears. I look around the competitive spaces I play in, searching for those I influence—and those who influence me. I create mental maps each time I do this, tracking how the map changes over time. Am I gaining or losing influence? With whom? Who is gaining influence with me and who am I breaking free from?

A lot of people are confused about leadership. They look at leadership as positional. You are a leader because your title or role says so. That drove me batty as a kid. I’d ask a teacher “Why?” and they would reply “Because I said so!” The teachers tried to use their position as the basis to change my behavior, but that didn’t work with me.

There are some other myths about leadership. One is that leading and managing are the same. A couple of years ago, Tom Peters and I had a Twitter conversation about this— and I still disagree with Tom. There is a difference between a leader and a manager. Leaders influence people to follow while managers maintain the structure of the organization: the business systems, processes, and procedures that allow an organization to achieve their mission.

Many people assume that the most knowledge makes the leader. I haven’t found this to be true—often the people with the most knowledge in the room lack the people skills to influence others. It is true that you can’t be a leader without any knowledge, but you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room.

Some people think being out in front of everybody else makes you a leader. That’s also wrong. I like what one British officer wrote in his evaluation of a lieutenant: “His men follow him only out of sheer curiosity.” You have to have people who follow you with the intent to act on your behalf to accomplish your mission to be a leader.

How does a person become a leader with influence?

There are several elements that help leaders create influence:

  1. Your shared values.
  2. Your ability to build relationships with other people.
  3. Your capacity to learn.
  4. Your ability to make effective decisions quickly.
  5. Your experience in volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous (VUCA) situations.
  6. Your track record of success.
  7. Your competence as a leader.

If you can’t influence someone to give you their discretionary effort beyond the minimum contractual obligations, to help you accomplish your mission, you aren’t a leader.

When you can lead a team when you don’t have any leverage over them, you are a true leader.

Click here for more information on how we can help you and your organization become better leaders.

What are your constraints?

The purpose of the Dillon Group, Inc. is to develop leaders within our companies and brands and develop leadership within our clients and their organizations.
Whether we help our clients develop leaders through training, mentoring, or coaching, or we help their organization develop market leadership, there are fundamental laws that govern leadership. As a long-time student of John Maxwell and others (and a member of The John Maxwell Team), I have studied leadership development for more than 20 years.
The laws of leadership proposed by John Maxwell have held true in my experience and in the experience of millions of people around the world who have directly and indirectly benefited from his insights.
The first law, the Law of the Lid, states that your leadership ability determines your level of effectiveness and whatever you accomplish will be propelled or restricted by your ability to lead others. Your leadership ability is a constraint on your success.
I’ve learned this the hard way, as I have with most of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Apparently, I don’t learn very well from the experiences of other—I have to experience the lesson myself.
I began by questioning my own leadership abilities. However, I decided I couldn’t rely on my own perception since I am biased—as you likely are biased about your own skill as a leader. I started asking people to give me feedback on my abilities across specific dimensions of leadership. And I didn’t ask just anyone— I asked my boss, the team I led, my colleagues, and my critics. I learned a lot— mostly that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. I also learned that feedback can be really harsh and I had to develop thick skin to survive and thrive if I was serious about my own development as a leader.
Since those first painful steps to self-awareness, I have improved. I’m not perfect, but I’m becoming better in those leadership dimensions.
I found that I couldn’t do it alone— I didn’t have the tools to transform. I have used teachers, mentors, and coaches to grow, reducing those constraints imposed by my leadership abilities. I deliberately practiced (and continue to practice) my leadership at every opportunity.
I discovered a curious thing—there appears to be a direct correlation between my leadership ability and the success of the companies I’ve founded and lead. As I became better, we became better!
This illustrates the Law of the Lid: as I grew as a leader, my effectiveness increased and the companies performed better. I’m still growing— every day I learn that I still have a lot more to learn—and I can see the impact that I have on our team and we have on our clients.
So what are the leadership dimensions that are constraints to your effectiveness and success? Character? Charisma? Commitment? Competence? Courage? Discernment? Focus? Generosity? Initiative? Listening? Passion? Positive attitude? Problem solving? Relationships? Responsibility? Security? Self-discipline? Servanthood? Teachability? Vision?
On a scale of 1-10, how good are you?
Now, take a dose of courage and ask your critics.