LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE – How to Become a Person of Influence

7724040I teach, write, and talk a lot about leadership and the need for leadership in every part of our lives.  I cannot discuss leadership (in any capacity) without referring to influence.  You see, leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less……………There can be no leadership without influence, because that is how a leader leads……………….. through their influence on others.

The more we lead, the more influence we must have on people.  Our ability to lead people is directly proportional to our ability to influence them. The more we lead, the more we influence.

I thought I would share some insights on what influence is and isn’t. As well as what it takes to become a person of influence.


Many “so called” leaders misinterpret what influence is.  This creates confusion.  Let me begin by sharing what influence is not.

Influence is not:

  • Force – a leader cannot force a person to do something.  Well… technically they can initially. However, I always tell my staff that you will know you have influence on others, when they do what is expected when you’re not around.  Many Safety Professionals can force compliance, but can’t force behavior and attitude.  When you leave people with no choice, many view it as a challenge.
  • Intimidation – “My way or the highway.” This was my leadership method and style for many years. In fact, I still struggle with this.  Intimidation (through position, in my case) can produce some results.  Don’t wear safety glasses, then you’re FIRED!!  However, this method doesn’t yield great results in the long run.  TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.
  • Manipulation – “There is a winner and a loser;” “You scratch my back, I scratch yours.” Manipulation only creates unrealistic expectations and promises.  Once those promises can’t be met, your employees are done with you.  You have lost your ability to influence.
  • Position – “Follow because we have to.” Your position can generate a desired outcome, simply based off of your position.  However, it is not lasting.  People need to follow because they want to.  Your position can be a great starting point in adding value to those you lead or want to lead.

SO, what does it take to become a person of influence?

 A Person of Influence:

As Safety Professionals, we influence every day. Think about it. Every time we talk, train, coach, or present, we have an opportunity to influence.  It is important to become a person of influence.  In John Maxwell’s book, “How to Become a Person of Influence,” he uses the acronym I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E.R. to outline what it takes to become a person of influence.

 Integrity – Enron was an energy company based in Houston. It employed over 22,000 employees and was named the most innovative company for six consecutive years by Fortune Magazine.  However, in the span of 24 days in 2001, this company with claimed revenues of over $100 billion was declared bankrupt.  What happened?  The lack of integrity in the leadership of Enron caused one of the greatest corporations in the US to fall like a house of cards. The accounting scandal in Enron had enabled it to misrepresent its revenues and hide its losses in subsidiary organizations. Soon this became public. As a result there was a massive layoff. Everyone began not only loosing their jobs, they would soon find out that they also lost their retirement funds.  

7 years later in 2008, the same greed and lack of integrity caused many giant investment banks to fall apart, sending ripples throughout the financial world. The investment bankers never learned from what happened in Enron and while the times were different, the problem was the same.  The problem was and is integrity. If you have integrity, you will be successful. I believe a person of integrity will be successful.  I heard integrity explained this way…”Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.”

Nurtures – To nurture someone is to motivate and encourage. A person who nurtures another, will provide leadership in many aspects of their personal and professional life.  They will nurture them in the good times and in the bad times.

 Faith  – Have faith that others will do the right thing.  This has been a difficult thing for me.  I worked in the prison systems for 9 years before moving into the safety profession.  In prison, everyone had an excuse or was innocent.  I have learned to have faith in people until they give you a reason not to.

Listens – Listen to people.  When people feel they’re being listened to and heard, they feel their thoughts, actions, and suggestions are being followed up on.  Listen to what is NOT being said.  Many times, employees are not willing to come out and say what they feel, but rather give clues as to what they feel and believe.

Understands- Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, what he is trying to do, nine times out of 10 he is trying to do right.”  Understanding is what drives our workforce and the people we lead. It ensures we create an atmosphere where their thoughts, actions, and desires are integrated into our vision and plans.  I frequently tell my staff to “get in the box, close the flaps and roll around a while, then think outside the box.” Only when we have experienced what our team is experiencing, will we ever be able to lead them.

Enlarges – Mentor those you lead.  Freely share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with your staff.  Give them assignments that stretch their capabilities as well as recognition.  Give credit where credit is due.  Place your staff and employees in a position to succeed. From there, you can influence your way to leadership.  Realize you can’t enlarge everyone. Identify those who have the skill and a desire to be mentored.

Navigates – Provide direction.  Have a clear understanding of where you, the department, and company are going and clearly and concisely communicate that.  Where are you going? How are you going to get there? Have you thought about the course? Be willing to make course corrections. Stay with your people through thick and thin. They must know you have their back.

 Connects – A person of influence connects with people.  Don’t take people for granted, posses a “make a difference mindset,” stay in touch with your people, look for common ground, respect differences in personalities, find out what makes them “tick”, be sincere in your communications, and share common experience. Once you have connected with an individual, stay connected.

Empowers – Set them up for success.  Make sure they know you trust their decisions and actions.  Remember you can’t empower everyone. Make sure you are in the right position, have a working relationship, have the respect of the person you are empowering, and are committed to the process through the good and bad times.  When you empower people, you’re not influencing just them; you’re influencing all the people they influence.

Reproduces – Raise up leaders who reproduce leaders.  Influencers reproduce other influencers. Develop your own leadership potential and find others with leadership potential. Teach to be a leader and not just to perform tasks… and then MULTIPLY!!!

Our ability to influence is directly proportional to the value we add to those within our leadership realm.  If you want to lead, you must influence, because without followers you cannot be a leader.

I think it was John Hancock who said, “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” I fully believe that is true. Influence is created by building relationships that create trust. Influence can only begin when there is trust in the relationship.