Developing Your Leadership Potential through Influence November 23, 2006Posted by humairah in Skills Development, You.
What is influence all about?
Our level of influence varies with everyone we know. It grows in stages. The first level is modeling. One of the reasons why Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has been such an influential figure across the world amongst Muslims and Non-Muslims is because he was commanded by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to lead by example. Children grow up by ‘modeling’ or observing their parents. Many people are strongly influenced by people they have never met- Political leaders, singers, actors, etc.Level 2 is motivating. Motivating is about building a person’s sense of self-worth. When people feel good about being with you, you’ve created a bridge that allows you to impact them significantly. When Khalid bin Walid (May Allah be pleased with him) stepped on to the battlefield at Yarmuk, someone said, “Look, there are so many of them”, and he replied “I wish my horse was handicapped and their numbers were twice as many. This is nothing.”1 He was an extremely motivational leader, and took the Muslims to innumerable victories.The next level is mentoring. Asmaa bint Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with her) was her son’s greatest mentor. When Abdullah was faced with battle and knew he was going to be killed, she reminded him to persevere and fight for the sake of Allah, and martyrdom is better than all the possessions he was offered.2 He was extremely proud of his mother.The final level and the highest level of influence is multiplying. ‘If you lead many people or have a high-profile position, you have a greater responsibility because of your increased influence’, write John Maxwell in his book, Becoming a Person of Influence.Integrity
The most important quality a person of influence has is integrity with people. Integrity is about the small things that are hidden. Or, like the foundation of a building that holds it up. Anytime you break a moral, you create a small crack in the foundation of your integrity. People today are desperate for leaders, but people whom they can trust at all times and who have good character. Character isn’t created in a crisis, it only comes to light. The esteemed 19th century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne offered this insight: ”No man can for any considerable time wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one”. People will eventually find out about your flaws even if you try to hide them. When people begin to trust you, your level of influence increases. Periodically ask yourself, ’if the whole world followed me, would it be a better world?’ Here’s a quick integrity checklist:
- Commit yourself to developing a strong character, by starting with writing a signed and dated mission statement. Set aside what’s been negative about you so far, and resolve to make truth, reliability, honesty and confidentiality pillars of your life.
- Do the little things by carefully observing the times when you don’t tell the whole truth, or leave an assignment completed, or share a secret. Watch out!
- Do what you should do before what you want to do. Don’t be a slave to your surroundings. Such people find themselves at the whim of their own and others’ changing desires.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the falls from up on a rope above you? And more important, what person would you trust to carry you across the falls the way a man trusted Blondin? Charles Blondin was a French acrobat (1824-1897) who had crossed the American Niagara Falls (1100 ft long, 160 ft above water) on a tightrope several times- including walking with a wheelbarrow, on stilts, blindfolded, and also while carrying a man on his back! Many people today do not have faith in their abilities. They will look at you with weary eyes and say, ‘it’s easy for you to say’. When you believe in people, they do the impossible. But most people don’t have someone who has faith in them. Evangelist Bill Glass noted, “Over 90% of prison inmates were told by parents growing up, ‘they are going to put you in jail’”. Some parents are tearing their kids down instead of teaching them to believe in themselves. However, most people can tell when someone has faith in them.Faith is Belief in Action. How do you become a believer in people?
- Everyone loves a winner- It’s easy to have faith in people who’ve already proved themselves. But the key to motivating people is believing in them before they become successful.
- Praise people both privately and publicly.
- To keep people going, list their past successes, even if they are small. Instill confidence in them when they fail. Share your personal experiences with them to make them feel that you have had your share of successes and failures.
- Visualise their future successes. It is said that a person can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but only 4 seconds without hope! When you paint the future of people’s success, you’re building them up for bigger and better tasks.
The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) poured his life and energy into helping people around him reach their potential. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas was a young boy in the battle of Uhud- Yet he was commanded by Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to throw the spear and hold back the entire army of the enemy.3 Imagine how much that boosted his confidence. And now, here’s the faith checklist:
- Find a person who’d you want to encourage and point out a strength that they have to them. Use this opportunity to express your confidence in them.
- If you’re in a leadership position, and have to assign difficult tasks to a person, then spend some time first reviewing their past successes with them. If you can’t find any, that means you haven’t spent enough time getting to know the person.
- Chat with people about recent trials or tribulations they went through, that you are aware of. At the end, make it clear that you value them and continue to believe in them strongly.
Connecting with people
Connection is a very important part of mentoring others. Before you get people with you on a journey, you have to connect with them- like the cars of a train. The cars all have to be on the same track, and connected to each other and the locomotive before it can set off. The most important principle here is: Don’t take people for granted. “Weak leaders often get caught in the vision of where they’re going that they forget he people they’re trying to lead”, write John Maxwell. Devaluing people is questioning Allah’s creation of them. Be out there to make a difference, and do it by sharing. And also believe in the person with whom you’re sharing. This is the reciprocity rule in human behaviour- People behave with you based on the way you treat them.Synergy is a concept where 2+2=5. Together, you can accomplish great things. If you’re hesitant to meet new people, start with finding the common ground. What you discuss isn’t as important as your attitude- be open and likeable.Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has created each one of us with unique traits, and it’s important to respect these differences. And in fact, these differences can help you find the key to others’ lives. To understand a person’s mind, look at what he has already accomplished. To understand his heart, look at what he aspires to. Someone once observed, “Leadership is cultivating in people today, a future willingness on their part to follow you into something new for the sake of something great”- Connection creates that willingness. Umar Al Farooq (May Allah be pleased with him) was the head of a huge Islamic empire, that stretched much beyond the Person and Roman lands, once saw a lady making haseeda (Libyan dish). She wasn’t doing it properly so he showed her how to make it, and cooked for her.2 He would often cook for seniors and groups of people and feed them, an excellent example of connecting with people at a personal level.
- Measure your current connection. Do you have the key to each person’s life? Have you established common ground? Schedule time in the coming weeks to have coffee, share a meal, or just chat to strengthen your connection.
- Connect at a deeper level. Retreats, seminars, conferences are great for sharing common experiences, and discovering more about people under your leadership.
- Communicate your vision. But first, you need to define a vision. Does everyone working with you know where they are headed?
1 “Companions of The Prophet”, Vol.1, By: Abdul Wahid Hamid
2 History of the Khulafaa Conquest, Al Maghrib Institute
3 Alim® Online
For further reading: Becoming a person of influence, by John Maxwell