Leaders: Believing In Your People Is Critical For Success

Leaders: Believing In Your People Is Critical For Success

Believing in people is critical to a leader’s level of influence. Believing in people is also key to the success of both the leader and their team reaching their true potential.  However, a leader cannot have influence without believing in their people. Belief cannot exist without trust.  And while trust needs to be a 360 degree commitment between a leader and their team, it starts with the leader. John Maxwell says, “Here’s the bottom line; people will more likely follow and be loyal to leaders who can correctly demonstrate the answer to these 3 questions. Do you care about me? Can you help me? Can I trust you?” So how should a leader go about answering these three pivotal questions? 

The first quesThe first questions is “do you care about me?” This is a very important question for any leader who wishes to be successful.  A leader’s success comes from the people they lead. The leader needs to become aware of who their people are and their unique giftings.  Leaders need to care enough to understand how well and how efficient their people do their jobs.  These are basic tenants of leadership. So, why is it so hard for some leaders to understand that if people don’t think their leader cares about them or understands them; they don’t give their best effort. Why? It is because there is nothing to motivate the team to put forth their best work other than their own work ethic or fear.  And understand,  people can become so worn down in a negative environment their work ethic will erode over time. As for fear, it is a toxin which fuels motivation only for a moment in time, only to destroy it in the end. 

So what does caring look like? It starts with becoming aware as a leader. Becoming aware of who your people are is the first step towards positively influencing them. In  Maxwell’s book, “A Leader’s Greatest Return, he quotes David Augsburger, noted author. Augsburger says, “ Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person that they are almost indistinguishable.  Listening draws people to you, which works better than trying to push your leadership upon them. Empathy builds trust.” Leaders need to understand who their people are.  This is accomplished by listening to them.  And this does not mean focusing on how one is going to respond to what is being said. It means listening while trying to put oneself in the speaker’s shoes.  It means trying to see things from the vantage point of those you lead. Listening opens the way to understanding.  Understanding leads to connecting and connecting forges trust.

The second question is “Can you help me?” This question points to one of the foundations of servant leadership.  Helping people requires serving them. Robert Greenleaf, father of modern servant leadership, encourages leaders to ask themselves the following questions: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? A quality leader needs to ask their people how can they help them grow? What do they feel they need for personal growth and professional development. Leaders should seek out  the little things which makes their people feel appreciated and accepted in the workplace.  But it does not stop there because servant leadership is a 360 degree effort. In his book, Infinity Game, Simon Sinek ask us to “think of an organization as a plant.  No matter how strong it is, no matter how tall it grows, if it cannot make new seeds, if it is unable to produce new leaders, then its ability to hire for generations is nil.” In short Greenleaf and Sinek are saying competent leaders will encourage their people serve others in the work place. This is yet another way a leader’s level of influence is enhanced. When exerting influence in this manner, the leader is reproducing themselves. They are creating leadership seeds as their people serve others in a 360 degree fashion including: subordinates, fellow peers and even their leaders.

The last question is “Can I trust you?  Will you as the leader be there for me?  John Maxwell points out that, “Without trust, influence is nothing more than coercion and manipulation.  Integrity cannot be purchased on a whim; rather, it’s shaped by each ethical decision you make. Your integrity is your responsibility. It’s an inside job, the cumulative effect of your choices in life. Integrity matters, because it’s the gateway to trust, and only by establishing trust can you gain the right to influence others.” Too often, managers and supervisors default to using coercion and manipulation, as well as fear, to motivate performance in the work place. Coercion and manipulation erodes a leader’s level of influence. While there may be some temporary success, in the beginning, it is short lived. People working under the yoke of coercion, manipulation and fear simply have no incentive to do more than the minimum to get a task or project done. “When leaders are willing to prioritize trust over performance, performance will follow.” (Simon Sinek). With this in mind, leaders should endeavor to make trust, in the work place, a leadership priority.

When a leader successfully answers the questions: Do you care about me and can you help me they open the doors which lead towards answering the last question; can I trust you?  Remember listening draws those you lead towards you as a leader. Listening gives way to understanding. Understanding promotes connection; which gives the leader influence. Positive influence yields trust.  And trust is critical to leader and subordinates alike.  Choosing to take the time to listen, to understand, to intentionally connect, “without manipulation” are choices which determine the leaders’s integrity. And while integrity is the leader’s gateway” to gaining trust. It is also the means for a leader to maintain trust, as well. So trust and believe in your people, so you can begin to positively influence them in integrity.

Servant Leadership: Rise Above Intimidation, Manipulation & Other Misconceptions Regarding Leadership

Servant leadership

There are many myths and misconceptions about how to get ahead in today’s work place.  Today, I’d like to talk to you about two of them. As well as, the not so obvious alternative to both of them.  That alternative is servant leadership. When it comes to getting ahead many people, in the work place, try to seize extreme control of any situation which may advance them or their cause. Many do this through either becoming a master at manipulation, assuming a “my way or the highway” mentality or both. Each of these paths will erode away the ethical framework of who you are.  And it silences your inner ethical voice.

The first myth I’ll discuss is the one dealing with manipulation. Now if you are talking about operating a “thing”, car, machinery, etc. by mechanical means, then manipulation is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, when one moves from manipulating an inanimate object, like machinery, to the manipulation of a person; it takes on a whole different meaning. Webster’s defines manipulation as attempting to control or play upon by artful, unfair or insidious means to one’s own advantage over another person or persons. And most people are not really enthusiastic about being artfully, unfairly or insidiously controlled by another person.

  • When it comes to manipulation in the work place, the underlying motivators are a need to win by any means necessary or coveting what an another peer, up line supervisor or executive has.  I’ve no problem with competition for a position and the best person being chosen for the job.  This is the way it should be. What is of concern is the “by any means necessary” part.  This opens one to coveting what someone else has because they want or feels they deserve it more. Coveting is a desire which exceeds all morality and ethical decency.  It’s a way of thinking which, after time, builds sound proof walls around your internal ethical voice.   And after time, that voice is silenced and we find ourselves taking unsavory and, at times, illegal acts to obtain our desire. Doing so, simply to advance ones self at the expense of another. Manipulation will put you on a path of losing who you are and what you could be. Instead you spiral downward, becoming what you were never meant to be. 
  • But what is the alternative? How about servant leadership?  I remembering taking on a new job which included taking on certain cases from other investigators.  At the beginning, many investigators were skeptical of me and my new position.  Some thought, I would be taking credit away from them for those cases. Understanding their concerns, I kept up with the stats of those cases. I presented a positive report on each investigator to their supervisors for their respective performance reviews.  I pointed out how I would not be successful, but for the initial work of each investigator. And any win I had was due, in part, to the initial work of the investigator.  Once this happened, investigators openly referred cases to me and I’d worked along side them to help them with their other cases. The simple servant leadership premise I worked from can be found in the writings of John C. Spears, CEO & President of Spears Center of Servant Leadership. Spears said, “That there is a deep hunger in our society for a world where people truly care for one another, where people are treated humanely and helped in their personal growth, where workers and customers are treated fairly, and where our leaders can be trusted to serve the needs of the many, rather than the few. We seek a model of leadership based upon teamwork, community, and ethical and caring behavior. Being a team player who put others first and placed emphasis on team gain rather than self gain made me a success.

The second myth has to do with the rationale of the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality. Now, there are times when a leader gives a directive which just needs to be followed, up to a point, with no questions asked.  When I was in the Navy we would conduct drills, like touch and goes on the flight deck aboard a ship.  Aviators would practice landing and taking off in their helicopters.  As flight safety officer, if they came in too low or if there was a safety issue, I would order my landing signalman enlisted to waive them off.  Basically telling the pilot they could not land. There were no arguments or counter points to be made. If you were waived off, you were waived off the landing.  However, when I speak of the “my way or the highway” mentality; I’m talking about those who feel they are right about nearly everything. They have to be in full control at all times. And they allow no dissenters what-so-ever. You either follow them or hit the road as a former employee.  There is almost no middle ground with them.

  • Again, there is a servant leadership alternative. Our peers and subordinates may have ideas which may solve a present problem or prevent one in the future.  Thus saving you, the team and the company time, effort and money. Therefore, we have to periodically silence our external voice, move beyond one’s managerial title and listen to others.  James C. Hunter, author of The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership, stated, “Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all that internal conversation while we’re attempting to listen to another human being. It requires a sacrifice, and extension of ourselves, to block out the noise and truly enter another person’s world-even for a few minutes.” Notice Hunter says we have to make a sacrifice.  A sacrifice which includes blocking off the noise of our our voice, so we can enter into the world of others. You cannot talk and listen fully at the same time.  Listening adds value to others and gives you positive influence over them.  And as John C. Maxwell states, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another.”

As leaders we must rise above the myths and misconceptions about how to get ahead in today’s work place. We need to set them aside and embrace the servant leadership alternatives to them. The way to get ahead is to truly be aware of who you are.  Know your unique gifts and enhance them through personal growth and development as a servant leader. Then you will have the confidence to know you can compete with anyone at any time, any place and for any job. In doing so, you will not only maintain your ethical framework, but you prevent erecting barriers to your inner ethical voice.   The voice which is the essence, of who you truly are.

3 Part Action Plan For Personal Growth Today, So You Can Positively Influence Others Tomorrow!

personal growth, leadership development

Each of us invest time in doing something.  Even if it is to do nothing but sit on a couch; you are still investing time.  And many of us receive no return of investment on the time we place towards our current activities.  So much so, we might as well be sitting on the couch.  I want to give you several reasons to invest in yourself first and foremost.  Just as you should pay yourself first, each pay day, and invest it for you future; you need to invest in you first.  And the way to pay yourself is to focus time on your action plan for personal growth today.  If you wish to lead by influence tomorrow; you need to start with today, because today matters.

When I think of growth, it reminds me of farming and the old saying, “You reap what you sow.”  John C. Maxwell says, in his book Today Matters-“We grow only when we apply what we know. Be intentional about developing and following a personal growth plan. Each day, endeavor to acquire knowledge and put it to use. No one else is tasked with making sure you grow; you are responsible for improving yourself personally and professionally.”  In short, today matters. What you plant today, in terms of your personal development will determine what you harvest tomorrow.

1. The first step in this action plan for professional growth is to cultivate the field.  Any farmer would tell you a key step towards growth is one has to prepare the field for sowing or planting seeds. And if you are going to cultivate or plow a field; you are going to have to be intentional about it.  After all no field ever plowed itself.  The field I am talking about is you.  You have to prepare yourself to receive knowledge.  So how do you prepare to cultivate your field?  Start by setting aside time.  We all have busy and hectic schedules, You have to carve out that time.  And time makes the ground very hard too plow.  But keep in mind, you are more important than your schedule. Your  schedule should be developed around you, not you around your schedule. As you invest in your personal growth today, every facet of your schedule will improve tomorrow.  Then when you participate in personal development training, read a book, listen to a recording or work with an executive coach, be present.  Meaning you need to focus on what you are doing.  You need to make the most of this time.  When I went to Gonzaga University, in pursuit of my Master’s in Organizational Leadership, I’d tuck my babies in bed and kiss my wife good night.  Then I would turn my focus on my course work.  Believe me after a long workday and family time, all I wanted to do is to kick back and relax. However; I had goals for my family and I wanted growth, so I could seize upon future opportunities to become a leader. A leader who leads by influence.  So cultivate your fields by intentionally setting aside time to develop yourself and maintain focus, so you make the best use of your time.

2. The next part of the action plan for personal growth is to invest in some good seed. You will need to water and feed the seed, as well as, keep your field weeded. Keep in mind you get what you sow or plant. If you want to grow your ability to be a great leader, then find good seed to plant so you can bring forth a good crop.  The seed can take many forms.  Perhaps there are leadership classes and workshops in your area which you can take part in. The John Maxwell Team regularly holds workshops and training on leadership.  Seeds also need to be watered and fertilized.  A great way to do this is improve the way you communicate.  Each of us communicates, but most of the time we do so without making a connection with the person or persons we are speaking too.  Becoming an effective communicator will enhance your leadership and bring forward a richer harvest.  Seeds need nutrition as well.  Weeds will fight fo steal that nutrition away from your seeds.  One of the best ways to feed and weed your field is coaching.  A coach can help you self-develop your field.  A coach can also help you self-discover the weeds in your field, so you can remove them.

3. Another important step in your action plan for personal growth is to avoid doing nothing.  If your field is not growing good seed, it is going to grow weeds.  Weeds do not need much to take root and destroy any opportunity to lead by influence.  What weed crops might pop up and over run your field: Apathy, unfulfilled dreams, discontent, frustration, and anger.  The weed of apathy seeds will blow in. And if there is no action taken; indifference takes root.  The weed of unfulfilled dreams accompanies apathy.  You’ll dream about being more and doing more, but apathy keeps your dreams in check.  A dandelion of frustration blossoms out of the unfulfilled dreams and the chaotic winds of life spreads the seeds of frustration.  Frustration gives life to anger. And anger further disengages us from being the best version of whom we can be.  Therefore doing nothing is not only detrimental to your personal growth; It robs the world of you being able to lead as you were truly meant to lead. It steals away the possibility of you positively influencing others.

I wish to encourage you to invest in yourself today, so you’ll be leading by influence tomorrow. Maxwell was very insightful when he said, “When we add value to ourselves, we add value to others.” This is so true. When you make the commitment to add value to yourself by investing in your personal growth, you in turn add value to others. So get out there and cultivate your field. Invest in some good leadership seed and don’t forget to water, feed and weed it.  And speaking of weeds, remember if you do nothing you’ll invite a crop of detrimental weeds onto your field. And make no doubt, these weeds can and will overrun you. And the world may be robbed of your leadership and the potential positive influence you could have had on others.

3 Reasons Why You Need Power and Influence In Leadership

America’s leadership, John C. Maxwell, expert teaches that if your life in any way connects with other people, you are an influencer. Whether its your family, vocation or other area of life , you can increase your power and influence in leadership, with Maxwell’s simple, insightful ways to interact more positively with others. Watch your personal and organizational success go off the charts!

First of all there is nothing wrong with having the corner office, nothing at all. If this is where success leads you, my heart felt congratulations.  What I want to talk about is why effort and time alone won’t make a leader. Why position alone doesn’t equate to positive change. And why you need to lead where you are, so you’ll eventually will lead where you want to be. I hope to make it clear in your mind that leadership is not about effort and hard work alone. Power and influence in leadership begins with influence. It’s not just about being the boss. Leadership is rooted in influence. Like John C. Maxwell says, “Leadership is about influence, nothing more and nothing less.”

  1. Why effort and time alone won’t make you a leader.

    Here’s the first of 3 reasons why you need power and influence in leadershipChristian Simpson, a mentor of mine, says, “Some people are more attached to their struggle and adversity than success.” Effort and hard work are both critical components of a great leader.  But is how you apply your effort.  It is having self leadership. It is working hard, plus immersing yourself in both personal growth and adding value to others. Many good people expend a lot of effort and work hard, yet fall short of success more times than not. While they may fail more than they wish, many follow the same unproductive daily routines of life and never achieving the success they desire. So how can we change our daily routine? 

    If you will invest just a portion of your daily efforts into growing and developing who you are; it will open up whole worlds of opportunity you did not know existed. Investing effort and hard work into your personal development prepares you for when opportunity presents itself.  Also, take what you learn and invest some of your daily efforts into adding value to others around you. Adding value is nothing more than finding a way to lift up, encourage and develop others around you.  As you do so you cannot help but influencing others around you. And there in lies the spark of leadership.
  2. Why position alone doesn’t equate to positive change.

    Let’s now discuss being the boss.  Will things really change when you become the boss?  Better yet, it that really the question we should as?.  I agree things will change.  Especially, if you desire change and force the change to come about. However, I would challenge you to think upon this. What changes would be best for both your people and still address the mission of your organization? I remember when I was a police officer and I got into a high speed chase. After speeds of unto 100 mph and onto streets of a neighboring city, I finally caught the individual.  After I had taken him into custody, my lieutenant came to my location and asked me why the individual ran?  I told him, the individual knew they had warrants and wanted to get his car home so it wouldn’t be towed.  My lieutenant was incensed.  He yelled out to the individual, “You put my officer’s life in jeopardy! The car is facing the wrong way and is too far from the curb.  Tow it!”  What I took away from this is my lieutenant valued me as a person. He was angry that someone had placed my life in jeopardy.  At that point, I’d done anything for the man. 

    And even now, many years later, if he called me as a character reference or had a need; I would be there for him. Maxwell says in his book, Becoming A Person of Influence that,  “Influencers pay attention to the needs of those around them, and then pour out of themselves out to meet those needs. The average person goes through life looking for validation. They want to know they’re respected and valued. Leaders nurture others by extending genuine care, offering a sense of belonging, and being generous with encouragement.”  When this happens, people want to follow you. They want to put in that extra effort simply because you asked it of them.”  Yes, things may change when you’re the boss, but if you want truly productive change, become a person of influence.
  3. Why you need to lead where you are.

    If you want to be a person of influence, you simply need to lead where you are.  Start out by leading your self. Expand your ability for self leadership through personal development.  Then apply what you learn.  And you don’t need subordinates to begin to lead.  Take what you learn and pour it into your peers.  And purposely lead upwards, by helping to remove hurdles from your manager’s path.  Ask your manager, what challenges you can help them meet and overcome.  Then follow through.  Also learn what your particular gifts are.  We all have gifts.  Let me say that again, “We all have gifts.”  Being self aware is knowing one’s gifts. Everyone of us needs to be aware of our gifts and then both develop and grow them. And that growth and development will expand your vision of what you can do. It will magnify your ability to influence others. A wise man once said, “Opportunity is everywhere. The key is to develop the vision to see it.” 

Now you have 3 reasons why you need power and influence in leadership. Now go forth and apply your efforts wisely.  Work smart by investing in you and then pouring into others. Strive to be more than “the boss.” Be the influencer in your workplace, at home and in your community. And you will move from leading where you are now; to leading in ways you did not know existed. You will lead in places you’d never thought you would aspire to. And, eventually,  you’ll find you have lead yourself where you always wanted to be. 

The Power of Leading By Influence

“If You Don’t Have Influence, You Will Never Be Able To Lead Others” John C. Maxwell

Webster’s dictionary provides the following definition of  influence: It is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.  The power of leading by influence provides the most effective means of leading others.

John C. Maxwell gives a similar, but more detailed definition. Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, and nothing less.” And I’ve found this to be so true in my own journey as a leader.  I’ve discovered; if you are going to effective lead others, you will need to develop the capacity or ability to bring about positive change upon those whom you lead.  This includes helping those whom you lead to build character, providing your team a fertile environment for personal development and promoting positive behaviors in your people.

I remember moving up from the enlisted ranks and becoming a young naval officer. My very first leadership position, as an officer, was deck division and the boatswain mates. A Boatswain’s Mate maintains the exterior surfaces of ships, including painting, upkeep of ship’s exterior, deck equipment, and life boats. They also operated the ship’s small boats during a number of evolutions. Everyone told me the division was made up of a bunch of  malcontents prone to disciplinary problems. Those in the division were treated as malcontents. And the division’s low self belief met the low expectations everyone had of them.  John Maxwell says, “You never outperform your own self belief.”  When your people take in the negativity and poison from their work environment, it can wear down and limit their self belief.

I could have taken the same position everyone else had taken before. However, I decided to take a much different Approach.  I told them I believed in them. That if they took pride in their work, I would stand behind them. And I would acknowledge them up the chain of command.  

Things did not change over night. It was not easy. And believe me, that is an understatement. Change is never easy, but getting a group of people to believe in themselves. when no one else did seemed near impossible. Never-the-less, I stuck with it.  I set high expectations. I created a fertile environment. I sought out opportunities to praise excellence. Positive behaviors were publicly acknowledge and planted like a seed. Once they understood someone truly cared for them; the capacity to care for themselves grew inside of them.  As that capacity grew, it yielded the fruit of positive self belief. As their self belief grew, they sought out ways to make the division better. They took ownership of excellence and made it s common practice.

I have to admit I did not set out trying to prove Maxwell’s concept was true.  Meaning, I was simply wanting to treat others the way I had been treated as an enlisted man. As an enlisted man, I had privilege of being taught leadership by my Chief Petty Officer (Chief). 

My Chief created an environment for me which demanded and recognized excellence.  When I expressed an interest in becoming an officer, the ship’s executive officer took me under his wing. He piled me with extra responsibilities which stretched me. Both he and my Chief had high standards for themselves and held me to the same standard. Both praised excellence. My past has proven the following to me: “Leadership is influence, nothing more, and nothing less.”

When I look back now, understanding that leadership is all about influence. I now know why great mentors, teachers, pastors and leaders are so important. When a leader positively influences another, they lead others towards a pathways of excellence. Pathways; which are very difficult to find without a good mentor, a good teacher, or a good leader. A good leader help me find my path of excellence.  As a leader, what is your capacity to influence? Whom are you developing? Is the type of environment you’ve created suited to produce the excellence your company’s mission calls for? These are but a few of the questions we need to stop and periodically, ask our selves. 

And what of the importance of the environment in your workplace?  It is important, as a leader, to be proactive caretakers of our work place environment.  Your influence as a leader is critical if you wish to have a workplace environment where people are unafraid to take ownership of what they do. Where elevated self belief is common place. Where people are motivated to wade though failures in order to seize success and bring about excellence.

I would like to hear back from you.  Please take the time to answer the following and share your answers so that others can learn from your leadership experience:

  • How have you benefitted from having a leader, mentor, teacher, etc., invest in your life? 
  • What qualities should you look for, as a leader, when choosing a person to mentor? 

Leadership Is Influence

Everyone influences others. You don’t have to be in a high-profile occupation to be an influencer; whenever your life connects with another person, you exert influence. Everything you do—at home, at work, or at play—has an impact on the lives around you. No matter what your goals are in life, you can achieve them faster, you can be more effective, and the contribution you make can be longer lasting if you learn to develop your influence. 

People respond to one another according to their level of influence. The more influence we have, then the more people seek our advice, trust our decisions, and follow our lead. If we desire to be successful and lead the way, then we must focus on gaining influence. 

So let me ask you:

  1. What teacher, mentor, friend, relative, etc. had a profound influence on you & why?
  2. What traits did they have to make them such an awesome influencer in your life?

Your Thoughts, Insights, Experiences…?