How To Be an Influencer Who Leads Others
Are you an influencer?
There are tens of thousands of self-proclaimed “influencers” who are trying to make their living with likes, followers, and sponsors. Let me say up front that if making a living in that way is your goal, I don’t think I will be very helpful. My social media skills are extremely limited, and my few hundred followers on social media haven’t gotten the attention of advertisers yet.
But if you want to explore how you can impact the way people think and act—in other words, to influence them with your own life—then please, stay with me.
Influence is what I consider the fifth essential tool of a great leader. It comes through, and as a result of, proven character, experience, and skills. The desire to influence people is good, but we want to make sure that desire doesn’t get ahead of our character and self-leadership.
Jesus turned influencing strategies upside-down when He said, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:26). His radical philosophy was that if you wanted to be the greatest, you had to become the least. He encouraged people to lose their lives for the sake of others. This type of living changed the world forever, and this idea of leading by serving is still transforming lives today.
So, here are some proven ways to grow your influence as a servant leader:
1. Start with the right mindset—the one that Jesus taught and modeled.If you want a certain title or position so that you can be the boss and gain respect and recognition, you will not last long as a leader. Aspirations without humility and a servant mindset may get you in the door of the leadership arena, but it won’t keep you there.
I remember wanting a specific role and not being selected for it. I was resentful and arrogant about the situation, but I soon learned through multiple experiences that I wasn’t ready for that role. I had much to learn in areas of attitude and skills. And if I had been selected for the role, my guess is that my shortcomings would have quickly been exposed.
2. Focus on personal growth rather than organizational position.I have heard people say that Jesus focused on personal growth for 30 years before he launched his ministry. I don’t really buy into that specific example since he was God, but I do buy into developing yourself in areas of character, self-leadership, drive, and judgment. A person who is strong in these areas will be invited into more opportunities than they can dream of.
3. Lead well right where you are.Dreams can often keep us from leading well in our current reality. I remember a student pastor telling me about his desire to be a senior pastor. He said that he was “just” a student pastor currently, but he had big future plans. His current role had some amazing influence opportunities with students, parents, schools, and more. However, those weren’t going so well as he spent much of his time talking about the kind of church he would one day lead. I have watched that leader bounce around from place to place—and struggle at each place.
Leading right where you are includes serving the people in your area well, investing time in their development, and seeing your current role as a divine opportunity to steward well. When we are faithful in the small things and in the roles that some would call menial, we impact people. And that impact can be life-changing for everyone involved.
When I am interviewing someone to fill a role, I always look for the wake that the person has made in the water where they currently serve. They may look like a flashy boat or yacht, but if there is no wake of impact behind them, they aren’t joining our team.
4. Keep your fears in check.Influence can be scary. It can cause us to be put in positions that scare us to death. I have often thought, “I could never deliver a compelling message” or “I would die if I had to address a crisis like that” and “People would never be interested in what I think about that.” My fears have held me back many times from walking through an open door of invitation.
Some people are over-confident and get way ahead of themselves, but others of us are straight-up afraid to fail. So we play it safe and decline influencing opportunities. It is worth some reflection time to see where you are on that spectrum.
5. Finally, may we never forget the true power behind our influence.God uses us to influence people, but we need to remember that He uses all sorts of things like donkeys, rocks, and even bushes to do His work. There's nothing wrong with being a simple thing in God's hands. If we are looking to make a difference in the world long-term, we want to rely upon God’s Spirit living within us to work through us. If we keep this in mind as we serve, we will stay humble and dependent on Him, and open for Him to use us as He wishes. The result? We will be true influencers.
Let’s keep influencing together as humble, servant-hearted leaders who faithfully serve right where we are. And let’s courageously accept invitations that push us to rely on God’s strength and power.
For further reading on this topic, check out the following books: