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Leadership is Influence

Leadership is Intentional Influence in the context of Relationship

Previously on rogerfairhead.com, we decided that genuine influence starts with integrity and that the first stage of Influence is modelling, or providing an example.

The second stage of Influence is called Motivating, and this has to do with Encouraging others.

We see this all around us, with parents encouraging their children, and sports fans cheering their favourite teams on.  I spent many years in a cycling club, and we would always be encouraging and cheering on those in our team to cycle further or faster whenever they were taking part in club runs, training, time trials or races.  

I really enjoyed sports while I was at school whether it was cycling, rugby or athletics.  Other than sport there were a few subjects I liked and found quite easy, like Maths and Physics, but the rest I didn’t really feel motivated to engage with at all.  One subject in particular I was really good at failing was French and I managed to fail that quite spectacularly, twice!  So, when I joined Michelin and we had to start taking French lessons there it was no surprise that I was put into the dunce’s class.  

Then, as part of the training during a summer vacation all of the Michelin student apprentices had to spend a few months working at the Company HQ in France.  Now, I was immersed into the French culture and for 6 weeks had no English friends around to chat with at all, so all of a sudden, I had a reason to learn to speak the language if I wanted to be able to talk to anyone.

For several weeks I was tasked with translating some training materials from English into French, and the course instructor used these translations in his course immediately in an adjacent classroom.  There were loads of times when I heard roars of laughter coming from the training room where it seems I had translated something incorrectly or inappropriately.  However, when I returned to the UK I found that very quickly I was moved up into the Advanced French conversation class.  

Then, a few years later, I had to spend 6 months living in France while being trained for a new job role, working and socialising exclusively in French.  Now I had a motive to learn as I knew I would need this knowledge and these skills when I returned to the U.K. to perform my job.  Just before I came home a colleague said to me: “Hey Roger, I’ve seen you around but I can’t quite place your accent, where in France do you come from.”  

The thing is this: now I had both a reason to learn, and a motive to learn; it had become a necessity and the strange things was, as I started to become more fluent it unexpectedly became quite exciting.  It was no longer a chore, I actually enjoyed getting better at speaking the language; now I wanted to learn.

So Motivating is the second stage of influence

The third stage of Influence is called Mentoring, and this has to do with Empowering others.

Before I explore this, it may be helpful just to unpack the difference between Teaching, Training, Coaching and Mentoring.  I use all of these approaches depending on the situation, circumstances and people.

When someone is teaching, they will usually have a curriculum with a syllabus of information they want to share, and maybe a scheme of work for the term or semester and a lesson plan for each lesson.  The best teachers will “help you learn”.  

Teaching is about learning information and turning that into knowledge.

When someone is training, they will be helping their clients to learn the skills needed to undertake a particular job or activity.  Teaching is about learning information and turning that into knowledge, while training is about acquiring skills.  

When someone is coaching, they won’t usually share any information at all; rather they will ask questions and intentionally draw the answers out of their client.  The assumption here is that the client already has all of the information they need, they just need to be helped to retrieve it.  I like to say that in coaching people don’t have their questions answered, they have their answers questioned.  

In coaching people don’t have their questions answered, they have their answers questioned.

Finally, when someone is mentoring, they will have some relevant experience to share with their client.  It’s been said that “experience is the best teacher” but I would rather say that “evaluated experience is the best teacher” and learning from other people’s experiences is one of the quickest ways to learn.

Evaluated experience is the best teacher

For successful mentoring you need to find common experiences and starting from there, share both your successes and your failures to help others grow by taking account of your experiences.  A key element of mentoring is being able to be vulnerable enough to share both types of experience, the highs and the lows.

So Mentoring is the third stage of Influence.

The fourth stage of Influence is called Multiplying, and this is where you can really Extend your influence by Equipping, Encouraging and Empowering leaders, not followers

When our children were young, occasionally, on the way home from school, we’d take them to the local corner shop to buy some sweets. For our family we used to share this treat; often it was my wife’s turn and sometimes my Father-in-Law helped out, however, on this particular occasion it was my turn.  My son Adam reminded me of this story a couple of years ago when we were talking about the leadership lessons we had learned.

This time, instead of asking him what sweets he wanted and then buying them for him, apparently, I gave Adam some cash, told him to choose what he wanted, and then go to the cashier to buy it himself.  

I’d forgotten all about this until our conversation when Adam shared with me that this event had left quite a significant impression on him.  To his young mind, he was being Equipped (with the cash), Encouraged (to choose his sweets) and Empowered (by going to cashier alone), and he explained that he often looks to that as one of his earliest and most influential lessons on leadership.

By Equipping, Encouraging and Empowering Followers, we can add to our influence, but by Equipping, Encouraging and Empowering Leaders, we can Multiply our influence.

The most effective level of influence to bring to bear on any particular circumstance, situation or relationship could be any one of these four levels, and at any level the leader must pay particular attention to their integrity to bring ethical influence.  

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.