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From every facet of human life. Political, military, economic, spiritual, and social leaders that changed the way things were, gave people common purpose, and empowered their followers be better than they were, better might have otherwise been. Names like Washington, King, Gandhi, Ford, Mandela, Lincoln, Luther, Churchill, Paul of Tarsus, Thatcher, Disney, Roosevelt and Reagan. These leaders, either through instinct or experience learned the secrets of engaging, empowering and influencing people to expand the world of possibilities around them. These leaders motivated their followers not to mindlessly march to the beat of different drummer but rather to embrace the possibilities created out of a positive common vision. More importantly, these leaders created, either directly or indirectly, a self-sustaining pool of new leaders Leaders inspired by the selflessness and vision of those that can before them.
Noted Leadership mentor, John Maxwell boils leadership down to one singular, describable word: Influence. He notes that "Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less". Sounds simple enough doesn't it. However the influence that true leaders enjoy comes from the hearts of those they lead. You can tick off a list of "leaders" through history that have led through intimidation and coercion. Create fear and people will follow as long as fear lasts. Bully people and they will respond until rewards disappear.
However, the influence to which Maxwell refers is built over time, through personal interaction between leader and follower. Influence is created by showing others the motivation, character and integrity of the leader. Genuine influence comes from trust. People, ultimately, will make their own decisions based on the comfort level that they have in all of the available options. Do something or do nothing are options. Trust or distrust are options. Follow or lag behind are options. Confidence in the motivation of the leader, allows people to chose do something with the trust that following will get them to the place they want to be.
Then how do we get to that point where leadership begets influence? Strong leadership requires some skills and capabilities that aren't normally associated with bosses or managers and they may even be counter-intuitive but it is those skills and capabilities that engender influence. Leaders, among other requirements, must:
Take ultimate responsibility for what does or does not happen. No scapegoats here.
Empower others to take initiative.
Admit mistakes and failures.
Give your authority to other people.
Earn leadership. It is not given.
Be dedicated to serving others.
Provide the example to others. Sacrifice in order that others will emulate.
Develop your own replacement.
These require what I call the Heart of a Leader. The insatiable desire to look beyond yourself and know that the betterment of people and organizations are that purpose and vision are worth your dedication and sacrifice. The good news is that if you have the Heart of a Leader you can be taught how to lead. In fact, as business owners, managers and leaders it is important endorse the development at all levels and in all functions of your organizations. Leadership principals can be effective in your relationship with your customer and partners and throughout your business for example with Selling Leadership.