First Serve, Then Influence And Then Lead

So you wanna lead? “No!”, you say. “That involves too much responsibility!! I can’t take it.” But maybe you’d like to influence someone. Like your Great Aunt Mabel who has that cabin in Tahoe near your favorite ski resort or your Uncle Rufus who has that surf palace on Maui or maybe it’s your Cousin Bubba who is on the board at Harvard that can get you a high powered internship. Or maybe it’s just your worn out sales management team at your surf and coffee bar in Manhattan http://nymag.com/listings/stores/saturdays-surf/

So if you’re really bothered by the responsibilities around leadership we may need to talk about boundaries and leadership (Cloud, 2013) but before that, we may need to define leadership to some degree: What it is and what it is not.

Leadership is not control and, for the most part, it is not management. In the consulting and leadership world we say that leadership is influence. Influence appeals to the heart and the soul, maybe even the spirit. It’s about the emotions and life experience. It’s about resonating with the person, their values and their relationships. It’s about vision, passion, mission, joy and challenges that inspire.

Well, maybe you don’t need to use inspiration with your Great Aunt Mabel to get you that ski hook up. And maybe you don’t need to use inspiration with your Cousin Bubba to get your Ivy League bonafides, but if you do want to influence people there is a very important first step.

Serving is that first step! If you want to influence, you must serve! This is not slavery, getting used or giving in. It is service. It is seeing what people need and helping to fill that need. Listening, assessing, and evaluating are important first steps of serving. Watching, observing, and praying, along with getting wise counsel, are important steps as well.

When you serve and take the above actions you build trust (See the story of Nehemiah). People that experience you as sincere and trustworthy are more likely to listen and be inspired by what you are doing and saying. Then they are much more likely to take action. Serve, Influence, and then….Lead.

Actively seek to see where and how you can serve. Not to get something or just to give something, for the latter can become co-addiction or co-dependency. It’s about sharing something. Remember what I said about values and mission? Well, that’s what the leader and their charges should share in many ways. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech he did not speak to only one set of values for one set of people. He spoke to all Americans about values like family, community and opportunity that all of us hold firm in our hearts. He shared these ideals with all Americans. People’s hearts were deeply affected by that speech. And then they took action.

Will you take action? Will you serve? Because if you do, you will influence and then you will truly lead.

Cloud, H. (2013). Boundaries for leaders: results, relationships, and being ridiculously in charge. New York: Harper Business

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