Boy, wouldn’t that be awesome if there was a single blog post or essay that could tell you exactly how to lead with influence. I’d want to read that guy’s blog every time he posted something. But I don’t know how to answer the questions, so I’m going to give you some thoughts to ponder.
Positional influence is unfair and doesn’t work well. Sure, people will appease their boss to his or her face, but we all know what happens behind their back. There is this covert hostility in the workplace with positional leaders. But there are leaders who lead with influence. Some people have titles, some don’t. Some do this on purpose, others are totally unaware they are doing it.
My cousin can make a white Lacoste polo look sharp. He’s in great shape, and when he wears a basic shirt like that and he looks good in it, he makes me want to work out more, eat better, lose weight, and go buy a white Lacoste polo. He wasn’t trying to do that. In fact, he probably doesn’t even know he had that effect on me unless he’s reading this post right now. So this is unintentional influential leadership.
There are others, like my dear friend and worship pastor at our church who lead hundreds and hundreds of creative arts volunteers. His leadership is so inspiring and engaging, hundreds (possibly thousands) of people each year take time off work and away from family, put in tons of hours, drive long distances, and wear themselves out physically, mentally, and emotionally just to be a part of an awesome team and perform in our annual production, The Glory of Christmas. And every person that volunteers leaves better than he or she started. Granted, he has positional leadership, but he doesn’t use it. He is such a great guy, that he continually earns the right to lead people.
Earning that right on an ongoing basis (versus riding on the coat tails of your past success or acquired position) is the only thing that will make people follow you by choice. The results of this are profound.