I HAVE a deep conviction that leadership derives from influence and contribution, not merely from titles and positions. An influential person is one who is able to affect the course of events or somebody’s thinking and conduct. If you have any such effect on a person, then you are leading them. Although having a position will enhance your capacity to exert influence, position does not necessarily make you an influential person. Influential people make substantial contributions to the people around them and the organisations they belong to. In essence, influence is first personal before it becomes positional. If you are not a person of influence, you can’t be an effective leader even when you have the position.
One way to become a person of influence is to develop a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose implies that you have grasped an understanding of a certain role that you can play in life. Everybody has a role to play in life. An understanding of our role and an honest commitment to play this role will make us influential people. A discovery of our purpose places an imperative on us to pursue actions that impact people’s lives. A sense of purpose also helps us to channel our strengths and contributions in a manner that is productive.
A true leader is one who is able to enlist the trust and confidence of people. A surest way to gain people’s trust is to be a person of integrity and credibility. A person with integrity is whole and has a character that can be trusted. They say what they mean and mean what they say. Their words and actions are inseparable. They don’t operate by the “do what I say but don’t do what I do” mantra. Are your words in line with our actions? If that is the case, it makes you a trustworthy person hence people find it safe and reasonable to follow your leadership. Integrity offers a moral legitimacy for leadership. If people can trust you, they will follow you.
A person of influence knows what others do not know. They have insights others do not have. They understand concepts their followers do not understand. People will follow you for what they do not have. People will follow you for the value you add to their lives. I believe that leaders must necessarily make their followers better. But for you to make another person better, you must know that you can’t give what you don’t have. Those of us who follow Jesus Christ do so because He has eternal life and we believe that if we follow him, we shall experience this eternal life. And truly, He gives it to us. If you want to be a person of influence, you must have something that your followers won’t get from anywhere. It may not be anything spectacular but definitely, there is something you have that someone doesn’t have. As a leader, you have to devise a means to release it in a way that adds enduring value to the lives of your followers.
Finally, leadership requires initiative. The initiative of a person manifests when they are able to take decisions and pursue actions without the prompting of others. Leaders don’t wait to be told what to do. They do what they consider to be right. They do what they believe must be done. People who have a strong sense of initiative have the propensity to become effective leaders. When you occupy a high position, your subordinates look up to you for instructions and inspiration. They expect you to offer guidance and direction. At that level, you have to demonstrate initiative. At your present level, you can certainly show some level of initiative and self-motivation. If you can’t do it now, there is no guarantee that you will do it if you should attain a higher position. Those who already occupy certain positions must necessarily show that they are people of initiative. If they don’t, they would likely lose their position.
To a large extent, I share the view of revered leadership professor and past rector of GIMPA Stephen Adei that “Leadership is cause, everything else is effect.” Things happen because of leadership. Wherever you are, you can make things happen by deploying your leadership prowess. You can lead from the bottom up or the top-down, but of course in the spirit of influence.