Monday August 27, 2018

Guest Column: Leadership is Influence, Part I

Editorís note: This is the first segment in a series on leadership.
By Jamieson C. Persse


    After a brief hiatus, I’m happy to be back as a contributing columnist to the Oswego County Business magazine.


    After many, many positive comments from readers, my goal is to continue to offer some simple, yet practical nuggets for you to use in your life and business.


    The key word here is “use.” See, as Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”


    So, the moral of the story is, if you find something in these articles of interest, don’t just claim it as knowledge, but instead, do something with it. Often, the greatest gap that exists toward success in anything is the difference between knowing and doing.


    Today, I’d like to revisit a basic yet sometimes complex topic — leadership. I just Googled the word “leadership.” I got more than 1.9 billion. Isn’t that astonishing?


    Over two decades ago, I met a gentleman who has been a mentor to me ever since — Dr. John C. Maxwell. He has written more books — around 107 — on the subject of leadership and development than anyone alive today, and he continues to do so.


    Maxwell instilled in me a couple of very basic thoughts on leadership. First and foremost, everything rises and falls on leadership. Second, leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.


    See, in reality, the subject doesn’t have to be as complex as we seem to want to make it. So, if you stick with me for a few minutes, I’d like to camp out on this idea that leadership is influence.


    Earlier this year, Maxwell released a revised version of a book he originally wrote more than 25 years ago. The revised version is “Developing the Leader Within You 2.0.”


    I do training and consulting with a number of companies that want to develop their “leadership bench.” The principles in this book serve as an excellent starting point, because it offers simple and practicable concepts, that if put into action, can get people started in the right direction of developing their leadership abilities.


    Please make no mistake, leadership is a skill that can and should be developed.


    Leadership is about people skills, where management is about tasks, systems and processes. While all of the aforementioned are important to an organization, when we develop our ability to lead people, we have a tendency to get better results.


    So if we buy into this notion that leadership is influence, it’s important to dispel a handful of ideas about the subject (I call them leadership myths):


    1. “I’m not a ‘born leader’, so I can’t lead”: While all leaders certainly are born, not all are in fact blessed with natural leadership skills.


    That is, in fact, is a very true statement. The good news is that your leadership skill can be developed, through work, effort and perseverance.


    2. “A title and seniority will automatically make me a leader”: While title and seniority may grant a certain amount of leadership influence, your influence will never rise above that “positional” level if your people don’t feel you care for and about them and their needs.


    There’s a notion known as your “leadership lid.” Simply stated, you can never lead beyond the level of leadership that you personally possess. Hence, developing your abilities allows you to influence in a greater capacity.


    3. “Work experience will automatically make me a leader”: No need to restate it other than how Maxwell stated it. Sorry, but for some, this may sting a little: “leadership is like maturity. It doesn’t automatically come with age. Sometimes age comes alone. Tenure does create leadership ability. In fact, it’s more likely to engender entitlement than leadership ability.”


    4. “I’m waiting until I get a ‘position’ to start developing as a leader”: This begs the question — ”What if you never achieve a “leadership position”? Well, the reality is, you already have.


    Why? It is because everybody influences somebody, at some point in their day. The question is, is the influence good, or is it destructive?


    Think about your social media accounts. Aren’t you influencing those you are connected to? Are you an employee, a parent, a sibling, a son or daughter, or a friend? Sure you are.


    On the subject of achieving a leadership “position,” the best time to start developing your leadership skill is before achieving that position, not after.


    Hopefully, you’re starting to get the picture. Leadership is not a complex notion. It is a skill that can, in fact, be developed. Like Maxwell says: “If you start learning about leadership now, not only will you increase your opportunities, but you’ll also make the most out of them when they arrive.”


    In my next article, we’ll take a deeper dive into some insights about leadership/influence, and why “positional leadership” is the lowest level of leadership.


    • Jamie Persse is the founder and CEO of JC Persse Consulting.