John Maxwell asserts, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” I referenced this quote several times this past year as I had the privilege to speak to numerous groups of leaders. Oftentimes, when we think of leadership and influence, we think of others. However, I have found the greatest leadership challenge often lies within myself. The challenge of self-leadership, or self-discipline, can be a daily, even hourly, task. This is the stuff about which New Year’s Resolutions are made.
Having over twenty-five years of combined leadership experiences in the corporate, military, and non-profit sectors, and some forty-five plus in my personal life, like many of you, I have seen many highs and lows in leadership. I have seen many talented persons rise to high levels of influence, only to see them crash because of their inability to lead themselves. I have also seen very knowledgeable and gifted persons fail to rise to higher levels of leadership (influence) because of a self-leadership issue. I guess I have seen all kinds of combinations of leadership strengths and challenges, and how they influence a person’s influence.
I picked up a phrase somewhere along my pilgrimage that says, “You can influence others, but you can only change yourself.” If we all conducted as critical appraisal of ourselves as we did of others, I think we would all find more than enough to keep us busy. (Reminds me of the log and speck story!) As we work on influencing ourselves, we can actually increase our influence on others. It appears kind of topsy-turvy. To be better influencers of others, we need to be better influencers of ourselves. If our end game is to have a greater impact on others, we must strive to have a greater impact on ourselves. The outward influence is a byproduct of our inward influence, but rarely is the inward influence the first place we look or seek to influence. (O.K., we are on the precipice of a rabbit hole here!)
I have often said it is not a matter of if you will influence others, but how you will influence others. The same statement can (and should) be said regarding ourselves. What thoughts and actions will you say and do that influence you toward your aspirations (or not)? For the most part, our actions are preceded by our thoughts. How will you guard your thoughts and practice self-influence in order to grow your other-influence this year?