the shape of leadership

Eye-Opening Influence

Helping others gain a Christ-centered perspective

Chris Railey on May 23, 2018


Most would agree that leadership influence is a more powerful force than positional authority. I’ve become more convinced of this as I function in my current role, one that depends almost completely on influence rather than position. Positional authority is limited, but the ability to effect change to impact others through personal influence is limitless.

Leadership influence is acquired and spent in many ways, but I believe one of the most effective ways to gain and spend influence involves vision. Not the vision statement or big-picture dreaming leaders usually talk about. I’m talking about teaching people how and what to see.

Specifically, you can acquire and spend leadership influence by shaping how those around you see the world around them. A life of influence results from teaching people how and what to see over an extended period of time.

Much of the work Jesus did with His disciples involved simply teaching them how to see and perceive the world around them. In Matthew 8:18-22, for example, Jesus meets two seemingly willing participants in the cause, people who appear ready to leave what they knew and follow Jesus.

The ability to effect change to impact others through personal influence is limitless.

The response Jesus gives them is curious, however. To the first would-be follower, He responds with something about foxes and birds and no place to lay His head. To the second, He says there’s no time to bury your father; let the dead bury themselves! Not exactly how we typically think about team building or vision casting.

However, Jesus always seemed to reframe how the people around Him saw the world around them — moving them from material to spiritual, their kingdom to His, and old structures of authority to new ones.

The Gospels contain one encounter after another where Jesus taught people how and what and whom to see. Leadership, to a great extent — and discipleship as well — involves shaping how people see.

As I reflect on the leaders who most influenced the way I see and perceive the world, they have some things in common. To put it in prescriptive terms ...

1. Do the hard work to establish trust. It’s difficult to influence another person without first establishing trust.

2. See people in growth terms, not your need. Leaders who value positional authority tend to do things to maintain their authority. Influential leaders who impact the way others see the world focus on helping others grow, regardless of what they can give in return.

3. Create moments that matter. We shape vision when we create moments that matter and capitalize on existing moments in a way that marks the memory of those we lead.

Influence is a powerful force, and with it comes the opportunity to shape the world around us by teaching people what and how to see. Today’s issues and tomorrow’s reality require thoughtful leaders who teach people how to see like Jesus.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Influence magazine.


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