Do you know what it takes to influence people and be a good leader?
If you think of yourself as a person of influence, you probably have leadership qualities that have helped you change people’s lives — but is there more to being an influencer than that?
Is it simply good leadership skills? A need to help others?
Everyone has influence. We all have an impact at home, in our jobs, as volunteers, in everything we do. Often, we don’t even realize the impact we have on others.
Here’s my story.
When I was a manager of a non-profit a quarter of a century ago, I coached a young man who was a talented designer. He wanted to start a business making images that could be attached to the spokes of a wheelchair.
You see, he was in a wheelchair himself — and he played a lot of basketball.
His idea was to design colorful and eye-catching designs on wheelchairs which would make players feel more confident and grab the attention of their fans. I coached him as he set up his business.
He was destined for success!
Five years ago, I was preparing to give a presentation on leadership. Before the presentation started, I went around the room and introduced myself to the guests. When I put my hand out to a man in a wheelchair, he gave me an enormous smile. He said:
“I know you.”
It had been 25 years and I have to admit — I did not recognize him at first. But soon it dawned on me...he was the man who started his own business making images that could be attached to the spokes of a wheelchair!
His business had grown to achieve unparalleled success, and, like many of us, he had moved on to new ventures.
“You have no idea how much difference you made in my life. I will never forget what you did for me,” he told me.
We hugged and I thanked him for his kind words. Later in the presentation, he told the group about the influence I had on his life and how my advice, leadership skills, and insight had helped him at a time in his life that he needed it most. His words were warm, touching, and genuine. Several members of the audience had tears in their eyes after hearing his story.
In his book "Becoming a Person of Influence", John Maxwell says, “If your desire is to be successful or to make a positive impact on your world, you need to become a person of influence.”
Without influence, there is no success.
But, influence is a curious thing. We all have an impact on everyone around us — but the level of this impact is different with every single person we meet. To see this principle in action, Maxwell says to try ordering around your best friend’s dog.
So, the question remains: how can you determine your level of influence and help it grow?
Begin by honing in on and improving your leadership qualities, and by paying attention to how people respond to you and others around them. People like to be heard, so don’t do all the talking — listen to them. Build a relationship with them.
Remember this fundamental fact about influence and being a leader: Your level of influence grows as you develop supportive and engaging relationships.
Influence doesn’t happen all at once. It grows in stages.
Here are the four stages of influence and their impact as explained in John Maxwell’s book:
Mentoring: Mentorship is extremely powerful. It involves sharing your breadth of knowledge and life experience with people to help them reach their potential. In fact, mentoring is so powerful that it can often change the trajectory of a person’s life.
Multiplying: This is the highest level of influence you can have on another person’s life. When you influence a person this way, you help them become an influencer themselves. They continue the cycle with others. The impact of your own influence is multiplied.
We all have people who have made a big difference in our lives: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Madonna, Tiger Woods, John Grisham, Arnold Schwarzenegger — the list goes on.
It’s easy to overlook the impact we have on others.
Think of the impact your teachers, grandparents, and parents have had on your life. All these people have one thing in common:
Every one of them was and is a person of influence.
When you interact with people, whether they are family, friends or co-workers, never overlook the impact you can have on their life. Every encounter you have with a person is one that can change a life forever.
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