The power of influence is underestimated more than any area associated with leadership. The tendency is to believe only a few who live or are placed in the “public eye” have influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. The words of Charles Barkley still echo concerning the power of influence, “I am not a role model.” What causes men in the public eye, such as Tiger Woods and Mark McGwire, to deny, ignore, excuse, or seek to justify inappropriate behavior in spite of their influence?
Consider the influence of leaders throughout history, such as Hitler or Stalin. From a more positive perspective, maybe consideration would be given to the influence of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. A range of Biblical examples also stand out, such as Moses, Joshua, Jezebel, Manasseh, Paul or Peter. The influence of Jesus continues to impact millions of people around the world.
Few people realize the power of their influence and even fewer invest in their influence. John Maxwell has published a number of resources dealing with influence. He claims we individually influence at least four people everyday. This fact alone should move us to learn more about leadership. Every spoken or written word influences others. Every action demonstrated influences others.
Remembering several facts about influence should help us see the need to invest in our leadership influence.
1. Someone is always watching. Children watch their parents. Employees watch their employers. In general, we all watch our peers. No matter who we are or where we live, someone is always watching. As Christians, this statement takes on even greater application. People watch to make sure our lives are consistent with our message.
2. People often imitate what is seen in others. Even though every person has influence, the majority of the world is looking for someone to follow. Since this is true, it should make us think. If we want people to do better, they need to see a better way of life. The way you and I live can provide this kind of influence. The very life of Jesus was lived and recorded in light of this purpose.
3. Teaching right is easier than doing right. Application of truth is the most difficult of tasks. Mark Twain once said, “to be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler–and less trouble.” Generally speaking, most folks know exactly what everyone else should be doing, but rarely make the same application personally. Influence is based on living an example of the teaching.
4. We can only change ourselves. In reality, we attempt to change others first. We want others to accept the plan, but not the man. “Do what I say and not what I do” is far too often the unspoken law of hypocritical influence. Imagine how different our world would be if we were all busy working to first improve our own influence.
5. No better gift can be given than a good example. Paul instructed Timothy to be an example of those who believe in five areas, “speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” If all parents gave their children an example in these five areas, we could be one generation away from changing the entire “world view.” This is the power of influence!