The True Sources of Influence
Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence: nothing more, nothing less.”
Albert Einstein explained that, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
An example of influence…
Dad taught me to love books without ever telling me to read.
In my imagination I still see him, bent over a book, lost in thought. My roots go back to a dairy farm in central Maine. After chores, dad set himself at the breakfast table – reading. He read everything: fiction, nonfiction, machine manuals, science, and religion.
I heard him reading to mom. Normally she wasn’t a quiet person but when dad read she listened quietly.
I love books. I have thousands.
Dad didn’t try to make me love books.
He never explained how to read books. I got that from, “How to Read a Book,” by Mortimer Adler, who said, “Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.”
Dad still loves books and ideas.
Dad’s authentic passion for books and ideas profoundly influences me.
Your highest potential for influence
is rooted in your authentic self.
But there’s more…
Influence thrives in respectful relationship. Dad influenced me because of his passion for books and our relationship. I watched him, knew him, and still respect him. A life of influence begins with your authentic self and finds expression in authentic relationship with others.
You cannot lead in isolation.
Author’s note: Dad passed away June 25, 2012. I miss him.
What blocks personal authenticity? What builds it?
How can leaders build relationships that open door for influence?
Your post brings a memory to mind.
In the evenings when our kids were little, after playing with them on the floor, I’d go get a book. WIthout saying anything, I would sit in the chair and start reading. Before long, both kids would go get a book from their rooms and start reading quietly. It was uncanny.
The power of influence is nuclear. And it never lets up. We are always influencing. The question is whether that influence is for good or evil.
Thanks for jolting the memories. Now I miss my kids (both in college) 🙂
I learned that in some toxic environments, you may be fooled to think that things other than your authentic self, other than what you think is right by common sense are needed to be influential … however when you are there just have the firm faith that to be an authentic good person is all needed to gain the hearts and minds of people … and to preserve your legend
Dan thanks for this brilliant light hearted post!
Great post Dan. Fear is caused by something or someone. How we react to fear is what is important. That is a personal choice. Fear will always be a reaction. What blocks personal authenticity? We ourselves do this. There is no one or nothing that should have the capability to obstruct you from being who you are. Again that is a personal choice.
Circumstances provide us with an opportunity to come forward and demonstrate who we are and our authenticity. Consistency in our evoked behavior will show the world what to expect and who we really are. The way to build relationships which are coupled with respect is to foster and promote the other and leave our ego on the pillow when we breach our front door and step out to meet the world. Influence is an intangible gift which flows from the soul, attaches to the body and changes our perception of ourselves and how we relate to others. Gandhi said “my life is my message” and he influenced millions although that was not his intent. It was us that decided how his words affected us. That is why the best road to followership is for Leaders to show their personal uniqueness and let the message be absorbed at whatever level people are ready to incorporate into their personal reality. Peace and God bless. AD
I strongly agree that leadership is influence and setting an example is only means to influence people. I also agree that your highest potential for leadership (influence) is rooted in your authentic self. IT is really true and superb.
I think it is the “belief” that blocks personal authenticity. When we are influenced by the others appearance, expression or want to become somebody else, we question our belief whether we are right or wrong. And that is the situation, when we try to become somebody else in order to get short term appreciation, conformation and approval of the people. And this blocks our personal authenticity. On the other hand, when we approve our belief that we are right and do not seek external conformation or approval, then we become authentic. Being authentic does not mean that people will follow or appreciate you. At the same time, it is not long journery which takes time for people to analyse you with others. So, the driving force of authenticity is self belief. Stong self belief opens the door for being more authentic and weak self belief always questions self belief and weakens authenticity. Therefore, it is the magnitude of belief that either blocks or builds authenticity.
I believe, sharing and caring attitude builds relationship where respect opens the door to influence. It is more on psychological need of the people that needs to be connected. The psychological need is respect, recognition, appreciation and guidance. People need all these things in any condition. I also feel that influencing is non intentional, and when it is no intentional, it is more powerful. On the other hand, when our intention is to influence, then it becomes weak and people realise it. As it has been rightly said tha setting an example to influence is leadership. Here leaders do not influence the people, it is the example that people see directly, then think of means. Who has done it , how could he do that blob….. So, leadership is not about expectation but it is about committed effort that has positive impact on people.
I love that example of your dad, Dan. I am the same way about reading – books, audiobooks, the nutrition labels on food, if it is printed in regular or electronic ink, or recorded on pretty much any medium, I’m in. So I bemoan the fact that my children aren’t avid readers. Maybe it’s just a delayed effect and will show up eventually. Fingers crossed!
On the authenticity, it so completely comes back to doing something you love – the kind of thing you would do even if you weren’t getting paid for it – what you would do if your whole day stretched before you within no obligations. Would you go visit animals at the animal shelter, write a story, visit a shut-in, run spreadsheets of business models, play with a child, play with your food, what? Although it is not my primary gig right now (not even my secondary gig), I find it endlessly fascinating to be on the student film production sets. Even with the stress the students feel due to limited time and resources, I haven’t been on a set yet where there wasn’t a shared sense of mission AND an agreement among all present that even if they wouldn’t have chosen the artistic direction the director chose, it is what it is and there’s a film to be made, honoring that director’s vision all along. When you throw the energy you have at something you love, and add to the mix integrity and some solid work habits, good things can happen.
What I most loved about this entry is the fact that you were influenced by behaviour, not words. Behaving naturally can inspire others. I coach many senior leaders who are so hug up about there position, title – the persona they think they should be at work. When they start realisig that their people will begin to willingly follow who they really are from the inside out, rather than their role position, they start to relax and their authentic self is reinforced. Thanks for the reminder Dan
Dan, I have not heard this before “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” and I love it! My dad has always been a reader and growing up in a house like that I guess stuck with me as I enjoy it. I went through a phase where “I had no time to read”, but married someone who reads a lot so the refresh button was clicked for me. What is interesting is seeing how my 10 year old loves reading, how my six year old is eager to learn to read and the influence is the household. The examples in our lives create the influence for something to move from novelty or thinking to a habit.
thanks indeed for this great column.
In the same way, I feel that the strongest gift to my kids is not in trying to so called ‘help’ them develop or prevent them from getting hurt. It is in focussing on myself and becoming more and more myself, accepting life with two hands, taking responsability for my own growth as a person, following the voice of my soul. the more I fully live my life, the more they will be stimulated to live theirs… Marc.
Thanks for continuing the great posts.
Most of the responses deal with home/family relationships. The influence of that relationship is built over a long period of time. Likewise, to change it will require a long time.
However, influence in the workplace is a bit different. The relationships generally do not last as long and often must be established quickly. Without the benefit of time, authenticity can sometimes (temporarily) be imitated.
The “take-away” should be that if we always live authentically, our reputation will not only follow us – it may even precede us. The problem is that, if you have not lived authentically in the past, it will take a long time to recover.
I like the separation because that’s often the case with career vs. family & friends but I enjoyed what he said for us… “I watched him, knew him, and still respect him.” I must’ve that person where no matter how long you’ve knownme orhow close we get, you still respect me!
Your post brought back a flood of memories, thank you. As I watch my daughter now reading to my grandson I can drift back to many happy hours curled up in a chair together with a book. She even saved the copy of Alice In Wonderland I read to her so she could read the very same book to her children!
And I can see the same sort of leading unfolding in the workplace, there are a host of people leading in various ways – not just the management team but many individuals setting the bar a little higher in their own field of expertise. No fuss or noise, just gently and quietly raising standards. Pretty much everyone here leads in one fashion or another, by quiet influence.
Wow, so many core memories tapped in here Daniel, very nice, wonderful read.
By not striving for influence, we may gain it if our each and every action is, in its essence, respectful…to others and self.
Really appreciated Ray’s point about reputation both following and preceding us…caution objects in mirror may be closer…
Power, command and control in the workplace (or home) may produce short-term results but still does not require respect and the influence is often short-lived. And think even 30 years…aka Egypt, that is still short lived. For longer term success, developing those right brain strengths may produce a legacy you can value (and be proud of) for all of your time here.
@Doc. It appears that we think alike. Egypt is indeed a great example of how the workplace operates – much too often.
As @Steve said, the process is the same for workers and leaders. Even the most lowly of us has someone thinking that they “want to be like him (or her) when I grow up.”
Woe to those who set standards of hypocrisy.
What builds relationships where respect opens the door to influence?
Truth, honesty, integrity, trust, and as Kouzes and Posner put it – Credibility.
Read one of your twitter post…namely the one above. I simply vibed with your comment “your highest potential (influence) is rooted in your authentic self”. That is oh so apt for me too as all my life my biggest influence…the one that has shaped my present persona …has been the written word. I too own hundreds of books and it was by natural progression that I have now begun creating the written word. Do please read my book and give me your unbiased opinion. It would be of immense value coming from somebody who sets a great store by the written word. It would mean so much to me…so would you please ?
If we are related we have through these pages met.
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When I read the line that your Dad taught you to love books I was hooked. (Not really the standard “hook” line though. 😉 ) Anyway, it reminds me of what Francois Mauriac said, “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are.” Maybe it could be revised for today’s society, “Tell me if you read and I’ll tell you who you are.” Your Dad’s wordless yet eloquent example was a great gift to you and your insightful post is an encouragement to me in my relationships with my children.
Thanks for the kind word. It’s very encouraging.
I guess we are encouraging each other.
As Lou Reed concisely puts it on authenticity:
“I do me better than anyone else”
Great post – thanks
Author ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, ‘Best Practice Creativity’ and ‘Punk Rock HR’
Love the quote Peter. Thanks
Many a useful truth about business spake in music etc. even uncomfortable ones…
This is surely an additional source for me :))
…thanks for sharing
Great post. I’m fortunate to be working in a role that enables my authentic self to show through more than before… It is freeing. So I think situation plays a role in being authentic, but growing self awareness through reflection and coaching provides guidance in finding a place where one can be real.