After several years of teaching in S. Korea, I found I had learned how to connect with my Korean students, so when I was given the position of lead instructor and had to connect with all forty students in the program, I was able to do so effectively.
However, I was not very effective when it came to leading the teaching team; I had a harder time connecting with the other English teachers. When conflict developed between two of the instructors who were teaching the same course, I attempted to resolve the situation by sitting down with them together and talking through it. Both instructors behaved professionally and seemed receptive to my suggestions. Imagine my surprise when, ultimately, nothing changed. The two instructors continued not sharing information even though they sat next to each other in the office. It was at this point that I began to question my ability to lead the teaching team.
Because I had not connected well with my teaching team, I had no influence with them. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell lists seven factors that impact our ability to influence others.
- Relationships – who you know. Most people are not easily influenced by strangers; the better you know a person, the greater your potential influence on that person.
- Knowledge – what you know. Experts in their field often wield strong influence, whether it is as an expert witness or providing an endorsement for public policy.
- Character – who you are. When you are a person of integrity who keeps your word, people begin to trust you and allow themselves to be influenced by you.
- Ability – what you can do. When you can demonstrate skills and abilities that are relevant to the problem at hand, people will tend to follow your suggestions.
- Intuition – what you feel. When your education, experience, and gifting converge, you may find that your ability to influence increases.
- Past success – what you’ve done. Even more than experience, a successful track record will give greater weight to your words.
- Experience – where you’ve been. Knowing that you have faced similar situations in the past, many people will allow themselves to be influenced by your present recommendations.
The fact that Christianity is one of the most widely spread religions speaks of the influence exerted by Jesus.
- Relationships: He established very strong relationships with his twelve disciples (John 6:67-68).
- Knowledge: His teaching drew vast crowds (Luke 14:25).
- Character: The people recognized His character and authority (Matthew 7:29).
- Ability: He proved time and time again that He had the ability to meet people where they were and to bring them into a more abundant life (John 10:10).
- Intuition: Jesus knew just the right thing to say to each person to impact them for the Kingdom of God. (Nicodemus – John 3, the Samaritan woman at the well – John 4).
- Past success: He was successful in accomplishing everything He set out to do, from healing the sick and delivering the oppressed to feeding the five thousand and redeeming mankind (John 17:4).
- Experience: He is God become Man, and so has experienced temptations just like we do (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15).
Many people I talk to have a desire to see change, but they feel they have little or no influence in these areas. However, there is hope; in their book Real Influence, John Ullmen and Mark Goulston list four steps people can take to increase their influence.
- Go for great outcomes. This is accomplished through focusing on results, reputation, and relationship.
- Listen past your blind spot. When you are focused on your own goals, “your here,” you are not able to connect with people from their perspective, “their there.” This requires “connective listening” (or as Julian Treasure calls it, “conscious listening”) – focusing on understanding the other’s perspective, not on preparing a response or defending your position.
- Engage them in their there. When you “get it” (the other person’s situation), “get them” (their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, fears, and dreams), and “get their path to progress” (options and alternatives that empower), you are able to truly connect and exert positive influence.
- When you’ve done enough, do more. This means going above and beyond people’s expectations in ways that make you memorable.
According to research by Serge Moscovici in the field of social psychology, a consistent minority can have significant influence even when it is not particularly powerful or prestigious. This is good news for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the thought of influencing culture change. By increasing both our personal and community influence, we can create a more unified voice, and the Church can return to a position of influence in our culture.
Resources and Links
Interview with John C. Maxwell on the 700 Club talking about the Laws of Leadership
Communication Fundamentals course on Lynda.com, taught by John Ullmen
Website for Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In
Series of blog posts by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen based on the concepts in Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In
Coursera course in Social Psychology, taught by Scott Plous of Wesleyan University; information about minority influence from lecture 3.4: Group Pressure and Conformity Part 2.
“Moscovici and Minority Influence” on SimplyPsychology.org
100 Bible Verses about Influence
44 Bible Verses about Positive Influence