Influence is a funny thing isn't it? I mean, think about it just for a moment...who has influenced you in life? We often think of that teacher, coach, mentor, parent...who was it for you? Hopefully you have several that come to mind. But the reality is that we all influence. Every single one of us have influence radiating from our lives. You woke up the this morning, you are breathing right now as you read this simple blog...you have influenced today. You may not even realize you influenced, but you did...someone, somewhere was watching closely. Observing your words, your actions, your response to conflict, your commitment to excellence or your settlement of good enough. How did you impact? How did you leave your mark today?
You see, I honestly believe that we think of influence as only being from the 'good' or 'elite' leaders in life, but that's just not the case. While these people certainly have influence, the reason that you remember them isn't because they had influence, but rather it was the type of influence they had. They took you forward. They helped you take steps in becoming the person you are today.
Here's my point. I think we all need influence as a staple in our life. As important as the air we breathe is that which we allow to influence us, and the influence we have on others. In my line of work I deal with people on a weekly basis who have been influenced in a very poor direction and their life resulted in the consequences of actions that can be traced back to a select few influencers. We live in a world today where the need for positive, Jesus-pursuing, grace-driven influencers has never been more needed! All you have to do is walk into your local high school or college and see the need for influencers. Today...you will play a part in someone's story. You will help them take steps forward, force them backwards, or do nothing as they stand still. It's all influence. How will you leverage yours?
Think about these people for just a moment...
Those of you who know me are very well aware that I am a huge fan of Elvis. I love his music, I love the show & the spectacle of his life. He was one of the first major rockstars & had a tremendous influence on ALL who would follow in his footsteps. So much influence that decades after his death the number of people that visit Graceland each outnumber the attendance of many churches in the Memphis area combined. But you see, while Elvis had much influence, and claimed to have a spiritual foundation in Jesus, he did not surround himself with positive influencers that could keep him from drifting. He surrounded himself with enablers who allowed him to drift, allowed his influence to drift, and ultimately his life ended under the weight of it all.
Now that I live in Kansas, I have been forced to learn all things Wizard of Oz & Superman...I mean both are FROM Kansas, what other state can claim that? But think of the influence they both had. Dorothy seems like an innocent & naive girl yet if we look at the influence she had on the Lion, The Scarecrow, and the Tin Man it is quite impressive. Without her influence & persistence in not only building the relationships, but discovering what their true needs were...they would have never received the courage, the heart, or the brain. She was willing to do whatever it took to take her new friends forward. She had influence. Superman? Where do we even begin? He influenced everything around him. He stood for morality, for values, for justice. When people were in need they called for him. Think of all the kids who grew up wanting to be like Superman. But who were his influencers? Where did he get his values from...even apart from his superhuman abilities...where did his values come from?
What about Jesus? Now, listen...I'm a leadership junkie. I love all things leadership. I love reading books on leadership, studying great leaders both in the corporate world & the church world. I love learning the common threads, systems & thought processes behind great leaders. But what is interesting is that the most common thread among all leaders is simply influence. Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Jobs, Rick Warren, Lincoln, MLK...the great leaders in human history have all had it in common...influence. I admit that I may be biased because I am a man of great faith, but in my studies I simply cannot find a more influential leader than Jesus. No philosopher or brilliant mind has been discussed more than Jesus. No teaching is still taught more than Jesus'. Many leadership principles that we so highly regard, are from Jesus' leadership style (whether we care to admit it or not). Jesus was committed to taking people forward. He lived in a way that people followed. And he was willing to go into places he shouldn't have gone & talk to people he shouldn't have talked to (Samaria) just to help people move forward and better their life. He influenced a small group of leaders he hand-picked & equipped them to go on and influence even more people. His influence still exists today because He chose to not have his influence end with Him, but rather He equipped other people how to influence.
John Maxwell once said, "Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less." As simple as this statement is, there is a lot of truth in this. As you move throughout your day I want you to ask one, simple question. Who/What Am I influencing & Who/What is influencing me?