I first heard this quote from John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” If you don’t have influence you can’t be a leader. So if you have influence with anyone, you are a leader. If you’re married, a parent, have a job, serve on a committee, play on a team or have friends your a leader. Some people have obvious leadership positions and oversee or lead a large number of people. While others may only have influence with a few people or their immediate family. No matter how many people you have influence with, there are some essential qualities when it comes to leadership and developing increased influence. These essentials will help you at work, at home and in the community, wherever you have influence.
- Trust – This is first on my list because without trust you have very little influence. Being a trustworthy person is required to lead well. When trust is broken it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to restore it. When people trust you they will follow you, even when they don’t understand everything. To build trust you must be honest, open and vulnerable with people. If you keep secrets from people close to you or you are not honest about what is going on, people begin to lose trust. In every encounter with people you are either building trust or losing trust.
- Humility – This is second for me because this helps develop trust. When you are humble you acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that you have weaknesses. You give credit to people that deserve the credit and you are willing to serve the people around you instead of being served. Humble leaders know they need help from others in order to achieve the vision, whether in a business, church or family. Humility helps you to have the right perspective, while pride can blind you from potential problems.
- Love – This may sound strange for an essential of leadership, but it is vital to love other people if you want to have influence. As a leader love is the key ingredient to gain influence. When people know that you care about them as a person they will follow you and go above and beyond for you. People can quickly tell if you care about them or not. The Bible describes love this way: “Love is patient and kind, never jealous, boastful, proud or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails.” When you genuinely love the people you lead your influence skyrockets.
- Clarity – The reason this is an essential is because if you are not clear in your communication it leads to misunderstandings and conflict. The ability to clearly communicate expectations, goals, problems to be solved and issues to address is vital to good leadership. People trust and follow leaders that are clear and direct while doing so in a loving, kind way. It is also important to ask questions and try to understand where the other person is coming from or what they are trying to say. So part of clarity is the ability to listen to understand. When you do that you can respond in the right way and avoid unnecessary conflict.
- Empathy – This is the last essential that I am listing but it’s equally important in building influence as a leader. The ability to see things from the other person’s viewpoint is essential in order to lead and influence them. To empathize with someone you must slow down, listen well and not jump to conclusions or judgement. It is basically putting yourself in their shoes. Empathy will help you to be more compassionate when you need to be and resolve conflict much quicker. This also helps to build your connection with the people around you because they know you are always willing to hear them out and be there for them when they are going through a struggle.
I could include many other things but these five essential qualities give any leader the foundation needed to increase their influence and therefore their leadership. For me I need to ask God for help in all of these areas. Everyone can improve in these essentials and when you do you become a better person and a better leader.