I can remember when I first became aware of my desire to not only learn about leadership but to grow as a leader. I had thought, as many do, that leadership had to do with a title or a degree or a position one held. Then I came across a book by John Maxwell. Maxwell redefined my understanding by stating that leadership was nothing more, or nothing less than influence. As I thought about that I began asking myself some difficult questions. Did I influence others? In what way? Was it a positive influence or a negative one? How could I live my life in such a way that made a difference in people’s lives by increasing my ability to lead?
What I didn’t understand at the time was that leadership isn’t something that is taught, it is something that is caught. Of course learning about leadership is important and anyone who wants to grow as a leader has to be a lifetime learner. I have committed myself to that by the way I have sought both formal and informal education. I have worked for and earned three college degrees: a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree and a Doctoral degree. While these diplomas have been important to my ongoing journey of leadership, my informal learning has been extremely important as well. I continue to seek out seminars and other continuing education opportunities. Beyond this I have committed myself to reading as much as I can; in fact my goal is to read two books a week.
But there is something beyond education and learning that is central to a person’s leadership ability and influence. The learning part is easy compared to this. True leadership and influence happens when a person embodies the characteristics that he or she teaches. If a person hopes to influence people to become a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ, then that person must be a faithful follower of Jesus. I think about that all the time. If I want to have a positive influence on others, then the person who is on the platform during worship services needs to be the same person off the platform. There cannot be two Darrels. One shows up on the weekends and the other one lives out in the world. To embody that which is proclaimed is critical. Otherwise a person is inauthentic and powerless to have a positive influence.
All of us have influence on someone. The question to ask is this: do I want to have a positive influence? If so read and read and read. Learn what it takes to be an effective leader and then live into those qualities. Become the kind of person that you hope others will become. The world needs more leaders that have a positive influence on others.