In my last couple of posts, I’ve talked about how the person at the top of the organizational chart is not always the leader. Being a leader is really about influencing those around you and influence does not come automatically with a title. At first, this was a bit of a shock to me as I was convinced that since I had been given the promotion and the title, I really was the leader. But then I realized that to recognize the leader I really needed to determine who held the influence in the group.
What does influence look like in an organization?
In simple terms, when the person of influence speaks, others listen. Perhaps it shows up in a time of crisis when the entire team looks to one individual for guidance or inspiration. It can also show up in the creative process and in problem solving. There is generally someone who is the “first among equals” and who everyone wants to include in the discussion. In any event, the person with influence is fairly easy to spot. Of course, you do want to be careful to distinguish technical expertise from leadership influence, but that difference is not too difficult to spot when working with a team.
Most people overlook the fact that leadership is really bestowed on someone not by the management team, but by the team members. You’ve no doubt seen situations where someone was designated as the leader or manager only to be ignored by the rank and file. In reality, the team members are the ones who decide who they are going to follow. If it happens to be the appointed manager, that’s great. But if they don’t deem that person worthy of leading them, they won’t follow. My guess is that if you look back at your own career you can readily think of times when you ignored “the boss” and took your direction from someone else. This is a classic case of the leader and “the boss” not being the same person.
So the person who influences the team is really the leader and the one who is actually in charge. They may not have “signature authority” or the responsibility for writing performance reviews, but they are the unquestioned leader because of the way the team listens to them. They may gain their influence in a couple of different ways. Some people have influence based almost entirely on how long they have been around or because of their technical skills. Others gain influence through threats and intimidation, striking fear into the thoughts of those who dare to oppose them. The third and most powerful group gains influence because of their thoughts and ideas. I say that these are the most powerful because they are the leaders that people willingly following.
As you develop yourself as a leader, think in terms of influence. Do your thoughts and ideas make an impact on the team? Do they listen and like what you have to say? Does the team willingly follow your direction? Do people look to you for guidance and support?
If not, it’s time to give serious thought to what you can do to gain their trust, encourage them to come to you for guidance, and teach them to follow your lead in good times and bad. Remember, when you set yourself up as a person of influence within an organization, you are setting yourself up for a long-term role as their true leader.
At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees
When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.
Until next time....
ECI Learning Systems, LLC