“Leadership is influence.” John C. Maxwell, Th.D.
“Hey, Dad, do you want to speak to the senior team in our quarterly gathering next week?” Kelly, our older daughter and CEO of the company (HDS, Inc.) founded by her mother and me, is asking the question. “Sure,” I reply. “What topic do you want me to address?” “Leadership,” her one-word response.
As a professional speaker, it does not take much to persuade me to speak in front of an audience. Add one of my favorite topics and it is a no-brainer.
What is leadership? The familiar search engine, Google, lists 836 million results. There is more material on this subject than possible to study if you dedicated the rest of your life only to this topic. Even the number of books written about leadership is astounding. Many books are titled simply as “leadership according to,” followed by the name of a past military leader, president or other well-known statesmen.
It’s a popular subject. Lots of material. Many versions. Is there a way to summarize all this information into something simple that anyone can understand and use? Yes. This is my synopsis:
Leadership is influencing another to do what really matters. Most often, we think of leadership in organizations, where there are many team members. By my definition, leadership can exist in a relationship between just two people. Consider marriage. Of all the important relationships one might have, marriage might be at the top. And influencing our life partner is something in which we would want to succeed in positive dimensions.
Influence implies that that the effect occurs voluntarily, not in any autocratic manner. Organizations may need to dictate at times what tasks need to be accomplished. Good management is often needed. But, when it comes to leadership, it’s not about mandates or authority. It is simply influence. Successful organizations thrive on great results achieved by the ultimate combination of excellent leadership and management.
The last half of my definition points to the importance of positive outcomes. As such, the term ‘gang leader’ is a contradiction. The results of gang activities are usually not ethical and the gang leader is often dictating the tasks – not influencing them. Not much leadership takes place in this environment. Leadership involves a moral dimension. Things that matter.
When I made my presentation to the senior managers of Hackbarth Delivery Service, I explained that the way you lead is by employing nine leadership fundamentals:
- Practice what you preach
- Winning attitude
- Great communication
- Cheer others on
- Bias to Action
I closed my presentation with this thought: Success in life is simply achieved by doing what really matters. Getting others to do what really matters is at the core of leadership. It’s called influence.
Leadership is influencing another to do what really matters.
Today, I will lead by . . .
A great example of leadership is Zack