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The Only Way to Lead

A number of years ago while serving as a principal, I undertook the challenge of creating a system to help students who were not succeeding. I researched, studied, thought about and put together a system that would require teachers to give regular input into those that are struggling and we'd need to create an after school support program. I presented this to the school leadership team, they listened carefully, nodded their heads in agreement and DID NOTHING!

A few years later when presented with the challenge of trying to grow a congregation at church as the pastor I acted very similarly. I researched, studied, thought about and presented a plan to double the size of our congregation in four years. The church council listened carefully, nodded their heads and then ACTED IMMEDIATELY, almost without asking.

What's the difference you might ask? That is a great question.

You see, the experience as a principal was early in my career. I had not taken time to build relationships, did not include anyone in the process of developing this intervention and due to my lack of experience and young age lead pretty much through the use of my title. This was a grand mistake that was very painful for me to learn.

Later, as a church leader I had learned the value of fostering relationships, of expressing true concern to others, of listening intently, and involving others in the process.

In short, the true difference between these two experiences is that in one I had almost no influence with the school leadership team and in the other, I had developed great influence with the church council.

If you truly want to know the best way to lead, it is leading through a person's influence.

Think of it - if you are a parent, you've probably used the line "because I'm the parent." If you are a manager, supervisor or boss, you've probably used a similar line. Let me ask you, how well did that turn out for you? Sure, they may have responded and even given a half-hearted effort, but you've not inspired them.

What is the great secret to attain influence?

While there are many answers to this question, every one of them has one thing at their core. Influencers add value to others. To put this into perspective, here are some ways that influencers can add value to others:

- Smile to all you see. Yes this is simple, but it goes a long ways.

- Ask people about their personal lives. This shows interest in not just who they are at work, but who they are in life.

- Remember...names, birthdays, names of kids, hobbies, successes in their lives. This shows others that you value who they are.

- Listen to them. Your life is busy, I understand. However, there is little that expresses value to the other person as much as taking time to honestly listen to them.

- Navigate for them. A leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Be the captain of the ship that helps them meet their goals and objectives.

- Make it safe for them. People often fear making a mistake. Encourage them to stretch beyond their comfort zone and help them realize that making mistakes is not the opposite of success, but rather a step of success.

Remember, "No matter what your goals are in life, or what you want to accomplish, you can achieve them faster, you can be more effective and the contribution you make can be longer lasting if you learn how to become a person of influence." John C . Maxwell

Choose now to add value to the lives of others every day!

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