Leadership and Influence

TLBS - Just Saying

Welcome to Leadership and Influence! They say that leaders are born, not made. While it is true that some people are born leaders, some leaders are born in the midst of adversity. Often, simple people who have never had a leadership role will stand up and take the lead when a situation they care about requires it. A simple example is parenting. When a child arrives, many parents discover leadership abilities they never knew existed in order to guide and protect their offspring. There are countless war stories of simple GI’s and sailors who rose to a challenge on their own in the heat of battle

Leadership is not telling others what to do. Leadership is inspiring others to do what needs to be done. Many people around the world who are in leadership positions are not leaders. Dictators call themselves leaders but they are not – they are tyrants. Genuine leaders take a stand and motivate others to join them in a noble purpose. One such leader was Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery in the United States. Another was John F. Kennedy, who inspired a nation to go to the moon within a decade, and it did. General Patton had a completely different but no less effective leadership style. What is it that makes a leader, and what separates the good from the great? This workshop will explore different leadership theories and examine what makes a great leader.

Influence is subtle, yet incredibly powerful. You can order someone to do a task, but you cannot order them to do their best. It simply does not work and usually has the opposite effect. You can influence people to do their best by providing a strong, motivating example in addition to positive reinforcement. Leadership addresses tasks, while influence addresses attitudes and awareness. Influence is the soul of leadership.

As long as there have been leaders, there have been those who tried to determine how and why they were successful. Leadership itself has not evolved, but our understanding of it has. It is important to understand why very different leadership styles can be effective, why the same leadership techniques will not work in every situation, and which leadership style fits your personality best. Everyone has leadership potential within them, but understanding these concepts will help you maximize your leadership ability.

Simply speaking, “leadership” is defined as “the ability to lead.” Unfortunately, this is not very helpful. A better definition comes from the BNET online Business Dictionary: “The capacity to establish direction and to influence and align others toward a common goal, motivating and committing them to action and making them responsible for their performance.” Although this is more descriptive, it is not substantial. It does not tell us what leadership actually is, but rather what it does.

Not everyone is on the same intellectual, maturity, compliance, or motivational level. Different people are motivated by different things, and this must be taken into account if one is to be a great leader. Communications experts consider it critical to tailor your message to your “target audience.” It is the followers that you want to motivate and influence and you cannot do that if you don’t know whom you are trying to motivate or influence.

Remember that the best leaders are examples of what they want their followers to be. George Washington rode into battle with his troops. You cannot lead from the rear, and sending your followers out to take the heat and face the challenges while you remain in an ivory tower will eliminate any possibility of respect.

By definition, a leader is in the lead, right up front, ready to take the heat if something goes wrong. If something does go wrong, a true leader never blames his followers even if in fact they failed. A true leader takes the blame, and then addresses how to correct the problems that arose.

Leadership is neither for the timid nor for the arrogant. Confidence is often resented or misinterpreted for arrogance. People who lack self-confidence often feel intimidated by a true leader. This should never hold you back. If you have honesty, integrity and deal with everyone fairly, then others will see that. Be willing to listen to criticism, but also consider the source. If you are too afraid of what others might say about you, or you ignore legitimate complaints insisting on respect solely because of your position, you will lose the respect and cooperation of your followers and peers.

You may have heard that perception is reality. You must always present an honest, caring, dedicated attitude to inspire others. To inspire loyalty, you must have a track record of honesty and fairness. If any of your followers do feel they have been wronged, for whatever reason, you need to address the issue immediately. People talk, and a problem ignored is a problem that grows.

Believe it or not, the most powerful influence you can have is often not trying to influence someone. When people believe you are open to their suggestions and believe they have been heard, they will work harder even if they disagree with the methods or goals. That is the power of listening. Simply listening to others makes them feel empowered, even if you don’t accept their suggestions. If a follower feels there’s no point talking to you, they won’t, and they will disengage themselves from your vision and will only follow your directions begrudgingly.

The key to true leadership is to inspire a shared vision among your followers. Before you can convey a vision, however, you have to develop it. You must be clear in your vision, live it before others can see it, and model it from your behavior.

We have more information on Leadership and Influence in our Resource Centre

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