A few years ago I was talking with a friend whose opinion I valued about how I respected a person I was tasked to lead. I was, however, not convinced this person was interested in being “a leader” because he didn’t make decisions with confidence. In my mind these two things were directly linked. The person with whom I spoke responsed, “Maybe they don’t make decisions with confidence, but people would follow them off a cliff.”
Yes, there are characteristics that define “leadership” as we have come to accept it—or at least the visible, up-front, praised and admired kind of leadership. When we boil it down, however, a leader is, simply put, an influencer of people. Two things are always true of a leader: a leader has people they influence, and a leader has a direction toward which they influence those people.
Thus, by this definition, every person is in some way a leader. I’m sorry if that deflates the concept for anyone. The reality is, though, that we all influence those around us, for better or worse. Whether we stand up front and have our face on the poster, or work behind the scenes, we all influence others.
So, the question for every person then is, “Who am I influencing and how am I influencing them?” The “who” may take some thought, because almost always we influence more people than we first realize. It is the “how”, though, that hides a considerable personal challenge for us. I posit that how a leader influences has less to do with their mission statement and more to do with their personal development.
A charismatic personality can amass quite a following, but where they are leading those who amass may be off the earlier mentioned cliff if they are not growing in depth and vulnerability in relationship with others.
Connecting deeply with safe people grants us access to the hearts of others and others access to our hearts. This deep connection means the good and the bad are visible and accessible not only to you, but to others you trust.
This vulnerability provides opportunity for incredible healing and growth in areas that we either previously chose to look away from or were blind to completely. This healing and growth make us healthier influencers and able to lead others toward greater health as well.
To be a successful leader we are tempted focus our attentions and our efforts on the next best activity, strategy, or idea and miss the point. However, if we are going to influence others in the unique and powerful ways we are truly capable of, we need to be moving and growing into deeper relationships and greater health personally.
After all, just as we are designed for, and long for, this depth and vulnerability, so does the rest of the world. If any of us are going to "change the world", we need to be pursuing change in our own lives and culture first.
**This post has been adapted for our blog from an early post written for judydouglass.com