I thought it would be interesting to start a blog post off with a quote from South Park. I can still picture Eric Cartman yelling at people and hitting them with a club. It is worth a quick youtube hit if you are unfamiliar. He would expect people to simply do what he would say because he was in charge. He would continually say “you will respect my authority” if people would question him.
- I remember as a child playing king of the hill. To be the king of the hill you needed to push others off that were already at the top of the hill. It is sad, but some people view this as their leadership journey. They think that they need to knock others down to reach the top. Great leaders are those that get to the top and stay on top by helping bring others along the journey with them, like a Sherpa on Mt. Everest who has reached the summit hundreds of times.
- I wanted to expand on the thought of authority vs. influence. So many times people feel that they cannot lead others until they are in charge. This is the same excuse given thousands of times per day in companies all around the world. People say that they would act different or make better decisions if they were the one in charge. Most people sit around and wait for authority to be handed to them. The reality is that we are all in charge of something. Even if your job is to answer a phone, you are in charge of answering that phone. You can make that entire experience great or mediocre based on how you act. By embracing that role and becoming the best at what you do have control over, you can then gain influence. One way you can gain influence is by getting more responsibility because someone above you in the company sees how responsible you are for answering the phone. When people look to promote others or give others more responsibilities, they often look for those that are doing the best job for which they are currently responsible. The other side of influence is that others that work with you will start to count on you, look up to you, ask you for help and ultimately see you as a leader in that area.
- Authority begins with you. We all are in charge of our own lives and the decisions we make every day. How do you lead yourself? This is the best starting point to learn and grow as a leader. The founder of IBM, Tom Watson, once said: “nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” The problem is that it is also easiest to deceive ourselves. We believe the lies and excuses we give ourselves every day for not making better choices. What one thing are you going to do today to be better than you were yesterday?
- The number one way to start building your influence with others is to bring a positive attitude and a high level of energy to every interaction that you have on a daily basis. The more you can be positive and have a higher energy level, the more natural it becomes. Take every opportunity you can to be the thermostat in the room and set the temperature instead of being the thermometer and simply reacting to the temperature set by others. Attitude and energy are very contagious, make sure that yours is worth catching. I will close with one question that we should all be asking ourselves every day.
- How SHOULD I lead with the authority that I do have?