Losing influence is effortless. Easy to do. You can lose influence without even realizing it. Without even trying. Have you thought about it?
Leadership is all about influence. You can only lead effectively over the long haul when others respect you and want to follow you. Sure, you can lead short term because of your assigned position or role, but you will never lead a movement.
Of course, there are the obvious things that will kill your leadership influence: character issues, moral failure, burnout, refusing to grow and more. But some aspects of influence aren’t quite that obvious. They are much more subtle.
A favorite blogger of mine, Carey Nieuwhof, wrote a series of blogs on the topic of squandering influence awhile back. He had some observations and mine are similar.
Here’s my list of sure bets to destroying your influence:
Tearing Others Down—So many people try to build themselves up by tearing others down. I’ve seen businesses do it and churches do it. I’ve watched leaders badmouth other leaders. Friends disparage former friends. Every time a leader criticizes someone else, they lose a bit of influence among those who are following them. People really don’t want to follow after a cynical, critical, negative, back-biting leader. Build your life on what you are for instead of what you are against.
Focus on Being a Climber—If you are only hanging out with those who can help you climb the social or corporate ladder, it will ultimately work against you. I’ve watched well-connected politicians lose the election because their contender made all the effort to care about the little guy who wasn’t able to help much. I’ve seen leaders build relationships primarily with a few big influencers and lose influence with hundreds of potential supporters. Great leaders care deeply about those who don’t have the ability to help them back and thereby increase their influence as other observers see their heart.
Make it All About You—We all want to be heard and we all love the attention of others. But if you plan to maximize your influence, you have to show a genuine interest in others. Ask questions. Remember details (starting with their name). Express an interest in their interests. Listen more. Talk less.
Ignore the Little Things—I heard someone say, “You can tell an awful lot about someone’s character by how they return the shopping cart.” Ouch! But, yes you can. It’s the little things like “please” and “thank you” that make a big difference. Forgetting the mundane things like to RSVP or a timely return of phone calls, emails and texts will erode your influence. And yes, smiling, holding the door for someone and taking the low place at the table has an amazing amount of power to increase your influence.
So, there you have it. Little things can have a huge impact toward either building your influence or destroying it. It’s a matter of being intentional or not even trying.
QUESTION: Any other ways you’ve seen to lose influence without even trying? Please share them!