‘Influence is to be measured, not by the extent of surface it covers, but by its kind.” –William E. Channing
It is one thing to be a leader, but what separates any leader from becoming a masterful one? At what scale does one have to influence to separate oneself from a group of good leaders? I believe it starts when a leader receives a transfer of trust from those they desire to lead. You cannot have influence without trust, and trust is built through love. It is crucial for leaders today to build trust or what I call creating “shares of trust” with those they desire to lead. This happens when a leader leads unselfishly, building value and virtue, exuding integrity and confidence in others as they move forward with the common vision. Trust leads to a shift in power. When a leader builds trust they also amass power, and this power is the leader’s impetus to lead others. This power is known as referent power, which is synonymous with influencing. Without influence it will be difficult to lead any type of group, organizational, civic or cultural transformation. A masterful leader, therefore, is one who exerts influence for the purpose of transformation through collaborative effort. This collaborative effort between leaders and followers is the key to moving a vision forward towards concrete results.
This idea of building and transferring “shares of trust” sums up the life and leadership influence of Jesus of Nazareth. A transfer of influence came from the heavenly Father to His son, then from Jesus to his band of twelve disciples, and from Jesus’ twelve followers this heavenly transfer has influenced and transformed pagan and religious cultures in nations for over two millennia.
Just what is influence? According to a Google search, influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something…” Influencerising.com views influence as “the ability to alter or sway an individual’s or a group’s thoughts, beliefs, or actions.”[i] In my view, influence is a personal catalog of transformative virtues emanating from within, which are expressed for the benefit and purpose of attracting others to engage in creating change and leading transformation. These qualities are a mixture of innate and learned abilities, which are cultivated over time, plus spiritual endowments bestowed by our Creator. In sum, influence is the original Law of Attraction for the purpose of wooing others, and persuading them to enter God’s flow or to fulfill a specific agenda.
An etymological search for the root meaning of the word influence revealed “a flow of water” or a “flowing into.”[ii] After reading this definition, my thoughts were immediately drawn to John 4:14, where Jesus provides us with a vivid picture of spiritual influence:
“Whoever drinks the water I give him (a flowing into) will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up (a flow of water) to eternal life.”
This inner release of “welling up” from within is the fountain of life people deeply yearn for. It’s the “well” of divine influence, which bubbles up from within you at the time of conversion and continues to manifest its divine stream of influence throughout your life, only if you stay on course to guard and nurture its precious flow. This divine influence is a person, not a thing or paradigm, who abides within you, releasing a supernatural flow of favor and anointing, while at the same time leveraging your talents, and gifts for influencing. It is one thing to have influence but how do you measure its effectiveness? Allow me to illustrate both natural and supernatural examples of influence.
Influence is a gift and a study; it is acquired through learning and nurtured by growing. And, since you and I reflect both the spiritual dimension, as well as the physical dimension, we must learn to use our innate abilities given to us during the miracle of formation in our mother’s womb, as well as the spiritual endowments bestowed by our Creator upon our conversion. Therefore, for leaders seeking personal mastery, you and I must understand the painstaking effort of hours upon hours of disciplined study, learning and practicing their chosen craft to hone in the critical skills, abilities and talents required to build influence.
When you think of the great motivational speakers of our era, a few individuals come to mind. For me personally, I think of people like the late Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar, or Anthony Robbins, one of our contemporaries. Just how is their success measured? Is it measured by the thousands of people they have transformed by their uncanny ability to communicate life and leadership principles with clarity and flairs of humor? Can it be their charisma mixed with style of delivery? These great communicators of our day were not passive students of leadership by any means, but added value to people each day by being purposeful, engaging and being on the cutting edge of relevancy for their specific audience in time. These speakers, over a span of time, enlarged their capacities as great communicators in their area of expertise, which extended their sphere of influence throughout the business community, eventually becoming some of the pioneers of the personal development movement of the past half-century.
One thing is for certain, you cannot measure potential – only performance, since results carry the day over good intentions. We see this time and time again by people who have stretched themselves to enhance their personal and professional craft, which millions of Americans love and respect. Take into account, actors and actresses from the past and present, people like Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and actresses of the likes of Bettie Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. All these artists have something in common, they are known for their work ethic, on and off stage and screen, which is evident through many of their memorable and endearing roles. Their success can be calculated by applying various measures; their over-the-top box-office sales, their acting prowess, believability on screen, and by the accolades and honors received year after year at annual award ceremonies.
As a minister, when I reflect upon contemporary influencers of the faith, I cannot help but think of the likes of Evangelist Billy Graham, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Pastors’ Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Joel Osteen. From the inner well of the Rev. Billy Graham, we have seen a proven track record for soul winning and ministerial longevity. Bishop T.D. Jakes flavor is unashamedly communicating the truths of the gospel with persuasive and passionate preaching; Pastor Joel Osteen’s stream of influence is preaching a consistent message of positivity and hope, which attracts thousands of churchgoers and television viewers to hear his weekly messages. In addition, several millions of readers are drawn to peruse his books filled with life principles to live by. These modern day preachers’ sphere of influence is unique to each one, and can be measured by their personal integrity and ministerial longevity, and their masterful skills in communicating Biblical truth with simplicity, power and grace; each one is measured with a distinct style and substance.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, we are provided a list of heroes of the faith whose influence was measured by their simple deeds of faith. Faith was and still is God’s way of measuring success in the Kingdom, for without faith it is impossible to please God. These men and women of faith obeyed God’s call to serve their respective generation, which ushered them into a personal and glorious adventure. On many instances, their lives and contributions did not seem too inspiring, but their deeds glorified God, and this is the essence of expressing a divine influence.
You do not have to be an “outlier”, an extraordinary individual, to exert influence at a small or large scale. Influence can be exerted by anyone willing to pay the price for grooming personal, spiritual and professional mastery.
Influence is one thing but just what is a sphere of influence? And, just how does one begin to exert influence to enlarge their sphere? In the next chapter, I will define what a sphere is.
[i] Influence; http://www.influencerising.com/What_is_Influence.htm, accessed on 1-21-2013.
[ii] Influence; http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=influence&searchmode=none; accessed on 1/10/2013.