Leadership Is Influence

What is your definition of leadership? The answers may vary as much as the number to those whom the question is posed. Here are a few sample definitions to consider:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. (President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
Leadership is teaching others to think so they can get what they want.” 
(Gary Keller, Co-Founder of Keller Williams Realty)
Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” (John Maxwell) 
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, author John Maxwell, one of the most respected voices on leadership in the world, describes five myths of leadership that revolve around the core leadership competency of influence.
  1. The Management Myth: Leading and managing are one and the same. In this myth, people incorrectly associate people management responsibilities with leadership. In truth, managing and leading are different.  Management focuses on maintaining systems and processes. Influential leadership is about influencing people to follow.
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth: All entrepreneurs are leaders.  In reality, people may be buying what somebody is selling (or saying), but they are not necessarily buying into his leadership or vision.
  3. The Knowledge Myth: Those people who possess knowledge or intelligence are leaders. In actuality, mental superiority does not necessarily equate to leadership.
  4. The Pioneer Myth: Anyone who is out in front of a crowd is a leader. Despite the optics, the one in front is not necessarily the leader. The leader is the one with the vision that people want to follow.
  5. The Position Myth: Leadership is based on position. The greatest misunderstanding about leadership is that people think it’s based on position. Maxwell quotes Stanley Huffty, “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.”

“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” 
-John Maxwell
Myth #1 and Myth #5 often go hand-in-hand with the prevailing belief that “once I get into a position of power and responsibility, THEN I will be a leader”. In reality, leadership (via influence) precedes the position.
Furthermore, leadership is not limited to certain titles. We can and should be developing leaders at all levels of an organization.  
Leadership is a choice. It is how you decide to show up in the moment. You can lead in a conversation, lead a meeting, lead an idea, lead a project, lead a continuous improvement effort and lead in so many other official or unofficial ways, with our without the formal title of “manager”. This is what Maxwell means by influence. 
Managers have responsibility for a team to perform a certain function. They may allocate resources, make decisions and ensure deliverables are met. They may or may not also be leaders. Great leaders may or may not also be managers.
One of the most poignant ironies about directing a team is the paradox of influence and power. The more you rely on power and coercion to get things done, the less you have of it. Conversely, the more you yield influence to mobilize others and get things, done the more you have of it.


Which one of the five leadership myths above may be holding you back? 
Read more on Maxwell’s “Five Levels of Leadership” here

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