The Key to Successful Leadership Today is Influence Not Authority

Hey guys!

Leadership is often viewed as rank or position. People tend to associate leadership with high rankings and positions in businesses or even in volunteer settings. The reality of it is, leadership simply means influence. Leadership is one’s level of influence; not their level of authority. It is possible to be in a high rank or position but not truly be a leader; it is called being a manager. I have put together a list of 5 qualities of a manger and 5 qualities of a leader.

Qualities of a manager:

1. Managers look out for themselves.
2. Managers consider there advancement to be more important than the advancement of others.
3. Managers will get the job done at the expense of others.
4. Managers understand the importance of giving to themselves.
5. Managers are driving by their own success.

Qualities of a leaders:

1. Leaders look out for the people they are influencing.
2. Leaders understand that adding value to others is as important as adding value to themselves.
3. Leaders know that trust should be created before an atmosphere of high productivity.
4. Leaders understand the importance of giving to others.
5. Leaders are driven by the success of others.

In your personal and professional life, do you find yourself being more of a manager or a leader? Be honest with yourself. If you have the qualities of a manager, I encourage you to spend time in prayer, ask God to help you develop those qualities into leadership qualities, not just management. It is possible to be in a management position and still become a leader. If you are seeking to grow in your leadership, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:

1. What is your calling?

Where is your life taking you; where do you want to go? 2 Peter 1:10 “Therefore, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

2. What are you doing to invest in yourself?

Your mindset must remain; “Me first then others!“. This sounds contrary to what many believe, but hear me out! You cannot share what you do not know. What are you doing to invest in your personal growth and development? Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

3. What are you doing to invest in others?

What do you bring to the table when it comes to positively impacting those around you? Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Leadership is measured by influence; and the level of success that you hold is measured through what you do with your influence. Be driven by adding value to the success of others, not your own. Remember, it’s not all about you. Whatever walk of life you are in, use your God given influence (leadership) to better the world around you.

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.

Am using this medium to appreciate Alex Sanfilippo for the support on this piece.

Photo Credit: Femi Otedola

Influence or Control

to exercise restraint or direction over;

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

In Matthew 28: 18-20, we read Jesus’ famous words that have been termed “The Great Commission”. Jesus said, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus told His followers to go and make disciples using His example as the way to accomplish that goal.

Even though the directive of the great commission is captured in Matthew 28, we have to dig into the rest of God’s word to determine the methods by which we are to achieve that directive. If Jesus tells us to reach people in the same way that He reached them, then we need to study and understand how He did that. If we study the scriptures, we can easily discern that Jesus constantly demonstrated the method of influence over the method of control. Jesus’ goal was NOT to establish a worldly rule over people and force them to submit to His commands. In John 6: 15, we can read that Jesus literally withdrew when He believed that the people were going to forcefully try and make Him a king.

Jesus’ real goal was to lovingly convince people into freely choosing to trust and follow Him. Jesus used a lot of different methods to accomplish that goal. He diligently sought to understand the needs of the people he was trying to reach, and He met those needs. It didn’t matter if they deserved it or not. He healed their sicknesses, gave them food, and even raised their dead. He set the example, by living a full and powerful life that people found attractive and were drawn to. Jesus loved people unto death and said things like, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus’ sacrificial, loving, bold, attractive persona drew people in and influenced them to follow Him in a way that no human being was able to do before He was born or since He was crucified.

If Jesus’ method was influence, then that is not only the method that He wants us to use, but it is the only method that truly works. If we really want to impact the world around us, it has to be through His method of influencing people not through our selfish, default method of controlling people. To be fair, control can accomplish a lot of things. For example, parents may be able to control their kids and force them to be “good” kids, but if the child hasn’t truly been influenced to trust in and adopt that lifestyle, there is a good chance they will run wild as soon as they leave the house. False religions may be able to control their congregations through fear and the distortion of God’s word, but they will lack the fullness of life that Jesus promised to His followers. Control does not produce God’s intended result of a willful, loving obedience. That obedience is meant to be anchored by trust and established in His kindness, love, grace and mercy.

If there was ever an instance where control was warranted, it was in God’s relationship to us. An all knowing, all good creator could justifiably control the every move of His creation to ensure a perfect outcome for every situation. However, He chose influence over control. He chose to lovingly and attractively woo us to choose to love Him, rather than to force us. Because in the truest sense of love, a love that He created, it must be chosen and not forced. I believe that the following statements illustrate the difference between control and influence:

  • Control is rooted in fear while influence is rooted in trust.
  • Control produces short term results, but influence produces lasting results.
  • Control produces slaves, but influence produces followers.
  • Control creates selfish competition while influence builds unified teams.
  • Control suppresses people, but influence empowers people.

Friends, Jesus calls us to walk like Him. God’s good will for His children is that our every action and over every word would provide an intoxicating draw towards our loving Father. His goal is not for us to use the godliness within us and our knowledge of His word to control others into getting in line with our will. The goal is for us to become righteousness, and to influence others with the unexplainable love and life that shines through in the way we live. Our God chose influence over control, and that is His will for us as well. Let’s not strive to control others for our own benefit and comfort, but to unselfishly point them towards our loving Father for their benefit.

You Are A Youth For As Long Than You Think

If you grew up in a church like I did, we probably had similar experiences: messy games, crazy trips, and tons of great memories.

You also probably heard several sermons and devotions on 1 Timothy 4:12. And maybe, like me, your student ministry logo was somehow based on this verse.

Remember it?

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)

It’s a commonly used verse by many church leaders. Paul’s message to Timothy is an incredible encouragement and challenge to young people. It probably inspired you as a 15 year old to become more Christlike.

But here’s the reality: Timothy was likely in his early 30s when Paul wrote this. He wasn’t 12, 15, or 19. He was the equivalent of today’s millennials.

Timothy was a leader among 1st century Christians and an elder at the church in Ephesus (along with John the Apostle). At this point in the New Testament, Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman empire, so equivalent to modern-day Chicago.

Paul, nearing the end of his life, filled letters to Timothy with practical wisdom. These letters show an old man giving final words of counsel and encouragement to a young leader in the church.

And what does he include to this 30 something? An admonition to not get discouraged by people who look down on him because he appears to be a “youth.” Historians estimate men in the first century AD lived until their mid-60s, so Timothy was now “middle-aged.”

Why it’s important today

What does this mean to us, millennials, today? Many of us are

  • Over 27 (49 million millennials to be exact)
  • Married
  • Established in our careers

Yet despite the fact we are in new life stages, many older folks look down on us for our age. We are considered inexperienced, unprepared, and incapable simply because of our birth year.

I realize age is not a direct indicator of wisdom. As someone once said “Some people have 20 years of experience. Others have 1 year of experience 20 times.”

But how others think and act is outside our responsibility. Instead, let’s focus on us. What can we do knowing people will consider us a “youth” well into our 30s?

Simple. Follow the instructions of Paul to Timothy: set an example for other believers in the areas of in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Live a life that does not allow older generations to scoff at your age or consider you incapable of something.

Stop complaining about the perceptions, and intentionally live in a way that prevents others from despising you simply because of age. You’ll be amazed at how much your influence will increase.