Understanding the Law of Influence

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, June 29, 2017

By Elaine Lankford

When you think of great leaders who have made a significant impact in the world, whom do you think of?

Most of us would probably start by selecting a famous national leader and then work our way down a list of notable people who have been spoken of and written about. These leaders would cross all backgrounds, religions and races.

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But great leaders can also be found in our places of work, our churches, our schools and even our homes.

How can we identify someone who is a true leader versus someone who has artificially created the sense of leadership? In a word: followers.

John Maxwell states it brilliantly: “The proof of leadership is found in the followers.” One only has to evaluate the quality in which followers support and carry out the leader’s vision to know that there is genuine leadership present.

The Law of Influence states: The true measure of leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less.

But wait. Isn’t influence just persuasion? Technically, influence is the vehicle in which positive persuasion occurs. Let’s look at each separately.

Persuasion is the way in which one speaks or acts in order to sway others’ opinion on a topic or get them to take action.

When young moms are trying to get their children to eat their vegetables, they tell the child sweetly: “This broccoli will make you grow up big and strong.” The child is focused on the task at hand — eating his vegetables.

If the child likes how the vegetables are presented to him/her, the vegetables get eaten. It doesn’t mean the child necessarily believes in their nutritional value. The mother simply made it more convincing with her body language and tone of voice that the vegetables were acceptable to eat.

Influence, on the other hand, is the ability to cast an overall vision of what the end result could be in such a way that people will want to contribute to bringing that vision to reality.

So let’s use our mother-child example again. This time, the mother sets the plate before the child and doesn’t point out the vegetables specifically. Instead, she says something like: “Charlie, when you are older, I can see you becoming anything you want to become, and this meal is providing fuel for your brain. What do you want to become?”

In this case, the mother isn’t focusing the child’s attention on eating his vegetables. She is focusing him on the bigger picture of who he wants to be in the future. And while he is explaining how he desires to be an astronaut, he willingly eats everything on his plate.

Charlie has bought into the concept that eating what is on his plate, even his vegetables, will help him become an astronaut one day. He simply trusts his mother in this regard. This is the power of influence.

I love this observation by Nicole De Falco: “When trust is present, influence increases and persuasion is positive.” Possessing influence means we become more persuasive, not the other way around.

But how do we gain influence? In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell listed these seven factors, believing that each one is pivotal in our ability to lead others by influence: character (who we are), relationships (who we know), knowledge (what we know), intuition (what we feel), experience (where we’ve been), past success (what we’ve done), and ability (what we can do).

As a leader, I rely heavily on building relationships to create influence. How about you? Do you tend to overutilize any of the seven factors while ignoring the others? Which factor can you start building upon this week to improve your level of influence?

Let’s create balance in how we influence others, so we become powerfully persuasive leaders with enthusiastic followers.

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her elaine@elainelankford.com.