I couple of years ago, I presented a few words at the funeral of a 12 year employee and consultant to our company. Of the audiences I have spoken to in the last few years, most of them were larger in number and the topic was usually on success, motivation or transportation. What a difference it was to speak in front of family and friends who were there to honor their loved one in the midst of their grief. I have lost my own parents and my wife has lost both of her parents as well. I have felt grief and have consoled those in grief. It is not easy and it does not get easier.
In this situation, I wanted to say the right thing that honored the person. At the same time, I did not want to add to their grief.
I told those gathered that the one word that most described their love one to me was leadership. What is leadership? I told them that “leadership is influencing others to follow you in accomplishing goals and tasks that lead to the company’s success. ” This gentleman did this in great measure over his time with our company.
I think a lot more about death now than I did many years ago. I think this is a natural progression as one gets older. Part of that aging process is the recognition of legacy. I told those gathered that there was a huge hole in our company left by his departure. He could not be replaced. I also said our future was bright because of his legacy. His fingerprints, his impact, his influence was there for the future in our company. We have lost his current work efforts but the past influence would guide us in the future.
Leadership is influence. Influence can be the launching pad for the legacy you will leave. As we all move toward what is inevitable, most of us will at some point come to reflect on our legacy. Money and material assets are often mentioned in this conversation. However, these are external items and sometimes temporary and transitional. The most important part of the legacy that we give our family, friends and co workers will be internal, wrapped up in the influence that we have had on their lives. How is the other changed because of you? That is the essential question of the best legacy you can leave.
Leadership is not position or authority. The last role in our company for our departing friend was consultant. In that role, he became a lot more powerful than in the past when he had jobs of significant authority in our company. Why? It was because he had the power of influence. People followed him willingly because he knew what he was doing and because they knew he was there to help make them become successful. People knew he cared.
Leadership does not depend on authority or control or position. You can be a great leader in your company, family or community without any position. You do not need a degree or money. Leadership is not forcing or paying people to follow you. It is getting others to willingly follow you. That is the key. Being willing because of who you are, what you stand for, how you live, what you say. The person that follows in essence is saying: “I do this because of you”.
Influence is not autocratic. It is voluntary. It is living out your life in a way that speaks such a strong language to those around you that they end up changing their own lives in some way. They are touched, loved and changed because of you.
A good friend of mine says to ask yourself how many people you could call at 200 A.M. and they would come to your house to help you because you had called? How many of your friends could call and you would go at 200 A.M.? It is a great leadership question to ponder.
Tomorrow, find a trusted friend you know. Ask him to sincerely answer this question. What difference have you made to him? How will he be different if tomorrow you were not here? What will be your legacy for him?
Anyone can be a leader. Everyone should be a leader. At its very core, leadership is influence.