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Influence – one of the most critical ingredients in the recipe for successful leadership

If you have no influence, you can never lead others. But how do you measure the impact? I will tell you a story that answers this question.



A woman in a white blazer confidently speaks into a microphone, addressing an attentive audience, embodying 'The Power of Influence' in leadership.
The Power of Influence: A Key Ingredient for Successful Leadership

Leadership is often discussed in terms of various traits and attributes, but at its core, the true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.

Influence is not just about guiding and impacting others, it’s about inspiring them. With influence, one cannot only lead but also inspire positive change. This raises an important question: how can we quantify or assess the transformative impact of one’s influence?

Understanding the mechanisms and metrics of influence is not just important, it’s crucial for evaluating and enhancing leadership effectiveness. It’s a knowledge that can’t be overlooked in the pursuit of effective leadership.

I will tell you a story that answers this question.

Two events shook people at the end of the summer of 1997. In less than a week, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa will leave this world.

At first glance, the two women have nothing in common.

One is a young, sophisticated princess from high society, and the other is an elderly nun who served the poor in India – a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

However, their impact on people is remarkably uniform.

In 1996, in a poll published by the London edition of the Daily Mail, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were ranked first and second as the most caring people in the world.

This could only happen to you if you have influence.

But how can a woman like Diana be rewarded in the same way as Mother Teresa? The answer lies in the force with which she used the Law of Influence.

The Power of Influence: A Key Ingredient for Successful Leadership

Influence is a potent force in leadership that distinguishes genuinely influential leaders from the rest. It is not merely about holding a position of authority or wielding power over others; it is about the ability to inspire, motivate, and guide individuals toward a common goal, making each person feel valued and integral to the process.

The Power of Influence: A Key Ingredient for Successful Leadership delves into how influential leaders leverage their skills to foster a positive environment, drive organizational success, and cultivate lasting relationships, creating a sense of connection and engagement.

This exploration underscores that influence, above all else, is the bedrock of impactful leadership and the gateway to sustainable success. Whether you’re an experienced leader or embarking on the leadership journey, understanding and honing the power of influence can be a game-changer, transforming your trajectory.

Let the leader appear…

In the beginning, Diana’s title was just a platform from which to address others. Later, however, thanks to her personal qualities, the princess grew up as an influential person.

In 1996, when she divorced Prince Charles, Diana lost her title, but that loss did not affect her influence in the least.

It continues to grow, at the expense of the authority of her ex-husband and her royal relatives, despite their titles and power. Why?

Because Diana instinctively understood the Law of Influence.

Even after her death, she continued to impact others. When the BBC broadcast her funeral, it was broadcast in 44 languages.

It is estimated that it was watched by about 2.5 billion people – twice as many as those who attended her wedding.

You have achieved excellence as a leader when people would follow you everywhere, as long as it is not out of curiosity…

Princess Diana has been described in many different ways, but I have never heard her called a “leader.” Although this is the truth itself, because it has carried out its intentions and managed to impact others, and leadership is influence – no more, no less. ”

What is not leadership?

Sometimes, people have misconceptions about leadership. When they hear an impressive title or position, they immediately think the holder is their leader.
Of course, this could be true, but titles have little value in terms of leadership.

Understanding that authentic leadership cannot be obtained as a reward, service, or task is empowering. It can only be won through influence, which does not last a specific term. This knowledge is worth it.

It can only be won through influence, which does not last a specific term. It is worth it. The only thing that can secure the title is time to increase or lose your influence.

5 myths about leadership

People have adopted many myths and misconceptions about leaders and leadership. Here are the five most famous:

The only thing that can secure the title is a little time to increase or lose your influence.

1. The myth of management

It is widely believed that leadership and management are the same things. Only a few years ago, books that claimed to be about leadership were actually about management.

The main difference is that leadership influences people to follow us, while management focuses on developing systems and processes. This clear distinction is crucial to understanding the true essence of leadership.

As former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca commented:

“Sometimes, even the best manager is like a little boy with a big dog – waiting to see where the dog is going to take him in that direction.” – Lee Iacocca.

The best way to check if someone knows how to lead, not just manage, is to ask them to create positive change. Managers can follow the direction but not change it, which is why influence is needed. This emphasis on influence should inspire you to strive for true leadership.

2. The myth of the entrepreneur

People often think that sales agents and entrepreneurs are leaders. But this is only true for some. Ronko’s ads appeared on television a few years ago. They sold products such as “Pocket Fishing Tackle,” “Egg Mixer Inside the Shell,” etc.

These products are the offspring of the exceptional merchant Ron Poppell. Called the ” seller of the century,” he appears in ads for sprays to relieve baldness and appliances dehydrating food.

Certainly, Popeye is fun, resourceful, and successful, especially if you measure his success by the three hundred million dollars he has earned from selling his products.
But that doesn’t make him a leader.

People may buy what he sells, but they need to follow him. At best, he knows how to persuade them, but there can be no question of lasting influence. Lasting influence is not about convincing or manipulating others, but about inspiring and empowering them to make positive changes in their lives or work. It is a mark of true leadership.

3. The myth of knowledge

Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.”

Most people who believe that power is the essence of leadership conclude that leaders are those who have knowledge and ability.
But this is not true.

Visit a famous university and meet exceptional scientists and philosophers whose thinking abilities exceed any category. You may find that their leadership capabilities are so weak that they are not evaluable at all.

IQ can be different from the level of leadership.

4. The myth of the championship

Another misconception is that the leader is the one who walks in front of the crowd. Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb the highest part of Mount Everest.

After his historic act in 1953, many people followed in his footsteps, but that did not make him a leader. When he conquered Everest, the leader of the expedition was John Hunt.

Later, in 1953, when he set out for the South Pole as part of the Trans-Antarctic Community expedition, the leader was Sir Vivian Fuchs.

To be a leader, one must move forward and have people to follow.

5. The myth of position

The most significant misunderstanding about leadership is that it is based on position. Stanley Huffy confirms:

“It is not the position that makes the leader; it is the leader who creates the position.”

A few years ago, something exciting happened at the well-known United States advertising agency Cordiant, formerly known as Saatchi and Saatchi.

In 1994, investors forced the board to remove Maurice Saatchi, the company’s chief executive. This act entails several changes in the agency.

Several CEOs are leaving with Saatchi and many of the company’s big customers, including British Airways and the dessert makers Mars. Saatchi’s impact is so significant that it causes Cordiant’s shares to fall from $ 85 to $ 8 to $ 4 a share.

Under the Law of Influence, he loses his position and power but remains a leader.

Leadership without advantage

Leadership in a voluntary organization is a unique challenge, distinct from other organizational roles. Unlike in traditional organizations, a leadership position in a voluntary organization does not come with the usual perks. It’s a role that relies more on influence than authority, presenting a different set of challenges.

Let’s contrast this with other contexts. In the military, leaders can use their rank and, if something fails, throw someone overboard. In business circles, bosses enjoy some privileges in salary, bonuses, and powers. However, in voluntary organizations, leadership takes on a different form, one that is more about influence than authority. 

Most employees are incredibly responsive when their food is at stake. However, in voluntary organizations such as churches, the only thing that works is leadership in its purest form.

Leaders have only their influence to help. As Harry A. Overstreet says:

“The essence of the power to influence is to get others involved.” – Harry A. Overstreet

Employees in voluntary organizations cannot be forced to do this or that. If the leader does not influence them, they will not follow him.

Abraham Lincoln – from Army Commander to Commander-in-Chief

One of the greatest stories that illustrate the Law of Influence is about Abraham Lincoln. In 1832, long before he became president, young Lincoln assembled a group of volunteers to fight in the Black Hawk War.

At that time, anyone who gathered volunteers for the army became their leader and received the rank of commander. In this case, Lincoln won the rank of captain. But he has a problem.

He has never been a soldier, has no experience and is not aware of tactics.

He cannot remember even the most straightforward military procedures. One day, when he has to move several dozen soldiers from one place to another, he just can’t handle it.

Recalling the incident years later, Lincoln said:

“I could not remember the correct command with which I had to lead my soldiers. So when we approached the gate, I shouted, “This company is free for two minutes until it is built on the other side of the gate.” – Abraham Lincoln

In the military, Lincoln’s development took the opposite direction. As other officers prove themselves and continue to grow in rank, his influence steadily diminishes. The title and the position of “captain” do not help him much.

No one can violate the Law of Influence. At the end of his military service, Abraham Lincoln took his rightful position – he received the rank of private.

Fortunately for both Lincoln and America, he managed to cope with his inability to persuade others. While performing minor tasks in the Illinois Attorney’s Office and the Lower House of the United States, he put a lot of effort and experience.

Gradually, Lincoln became a person with remarkable influential power and impact.

“He who thinks he is leading, but no one is following him, is simply going for a walk.” – Abraham Lincoln