To learn is to obtain new knowledge or skill, which has the potential to change the way we think, and behave.
The outcome of learning is thinking and doing things differently to what we did before we gained the new learning. Our level of competence at any endeavour is improved though exposure to information, taking it on board as learning and knowledge and then exercising that knowledge.
The practice of Influential Leadership starts with a set of information and knowledge, which can then be given practical effect in leadership moments that arise in each of our social domains.
Leadership moments are the conditions that call us to exercise leadership, and they exist across all the social domains on an ongoing basis.
This kind of process is well-established and embedded in many fields and disciplines, from traditional trades to the so-called professions, from academia to sports arenas; it is no different in leadership practices.
However, there are fundamental differences between personal endeavours – such as becoming an exceptional surgeon or a Nobel winning economist or a superb mountain biker – and being a proficient Influential Leader. These include personal and social spill-over effects, and the depth and breadth of impact.
Being an Influential Leader is personal, it is about your life in all its dimensions; it is about a better and more meaningful life for you and the world around you, through your behaviours. It is much more important and valuable than only being great as a relationship-partner, or employee, or manager, or president or cyclist – it is all of these together.
But, before you imagine that I am expecting each of us to be perfect humans and leaders in each sphere of our lives, every minute of the day; it is not that simple, or complicated, if that is how you see it.
I am going to use my mountain biking metaphor once again, to explain the practice if ILP.
When we’re cruising along on our mountain bikes over a stretch of easy flat terrain, we hardly have to think about what we are doing. We turn the pedals as fast as we need to, admire the scenery, look far enough ahead to stay on course and glance in close from time to time to check the track surface. This is cycling in maintenance mode; not out of breath, no competing or jostling with fellow riders; there’s no urgency regarding what gear to select, no burst of adrenaline, and little risk.
Most of our life is like this – we’re just going about our life – at home, play, work or elsewhere. No fuss, no big decisions, no conflict to manage, and no immediate risks.
Under such conditions our ILP is hardly called upon. It is latent.
This is not to suggest that in such a “maintenance mode” we divorce ourselves from ILP behaviour patterns.
Here is a typical example of ILP at work in a ‘low demand’ setting:
You stop at the supermarket on the way home to buy a few groceries. It has been an excruciating day in the office with multiple crises to resolve, and a parking lot to contend with on the highway home. There are snaking queues at each checkout point. You’re juggling eight items in your hands because there were no baskets at the door…
No matter how you feel, or what your day has been like, you exercise ILP, which implies that your behaviour is guided by the Eight Influential Leadership Attributes. If these have been practiced then it is not something that one thinks about too hard, it is done by default:
In the above scenario, there are behaviours to be avoided if exercising Influential Leadership:
Not only would the above behaviours be unproductive and contrary to ILP, they are also unhelpful to remedy the problem. Destructive behaviours would not make one feel better either; they would probably antagonise the staff and other shoppers and leave everyone more frustrated and annoyed than before.
So, what about the big-deal issues – those major leadership moments?
When the terrain under my bike’s wheels alters; when the surface is littered with a sketchy coating of pebbles, or gnarly big loose rocks, or thick treacly mud, or steep rutted descents and tight hairpins, and faster riders are pushing from the back while others create logjams to the front – then our well-exercised Influential Leadership skills come into play.
If we have practiced and tested our leadership skills in smaller leadership moments, then we are ready for the bigger time.
As I approach the demanding terrain, I need to process a range of questions and possible solutions, such as:
There are a myriad of options and decisions to make; some are about me, others about fellow participants and even the organisers and spectators. The outcomes of getting some of them wrong are unhappy for all involved.
Similarly, in each of our life domain settings there are leadership moments when we need to make critical decisions, and follow-through with associated behaviours, about our own lives and those of others.
In order to contextualise the exercising of Influential Leadership I have created four social domain categories that cover the wall-to-wall notion of exercising ILP, these are as follows:
The cradle of Influential Leadership is the individual; but, the home is the social domain where we should first encounter, develop and practice Influential Leadership; from there let it ripple onward into our other domains.
We work, have jobs, create enterprises, serve the public – contributing to the economy for most of our lives. The workplace provides extraordinary leverage and spillover effects to exercise Influential Leadership for profitable outcomes.
Play is what we mostly do for fun, giving back to society and fulfilling our need for meaning. Play starts at home and takes us onward through school and work until we expire. Leadership is the foundation of how and why we play.
There are many and varied parts of our lives that exist outside our home, workplace, and play-time, but they are integral to how we express our lives; holidaying, commuting and socialising. Influential Leadership exists here too.
The 13 illustrative social domains hold the four categories together; they are not watertight boxes but simply ways to think about the circumstances in which we exercise Influential Leadership.
Join me in learning and practicing Influential Leadership so that life can be better and more meaningful.
Like any pathway to success through learning and practice – learning Influential Leadership requires:
- a committed start, and wholesome doses of –
- humility, and
There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
At Home is not necessarily a place or a building; it is rather wherever a family exists – be it one or two or many people tied by blood or bond, that have their space, may share their emotions and resources, and where they are safe.
Home is our first school, our initial social melting pot, our sanctuary, and maybe the place where we end our lives. It is also where we learn the difference between words and behaviours, and the contradictions between them. Arguably, Home is where most of our formative behavioral learning arises; our language, culture, doctrines, beliefs, etiquettes, world views and the practice of leadership.
Home is where good and bad, right and wrong, opportunity and disadvantage are bred.
It is where great responsibility and accountability are placed on those who should be wiser, smarter, and Influential Leaders – elders, and parents.
The first five years of a child’s life are fundamentally important. They are the foundation that shapes children’s future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general.
But, ILP knows no age, so it can be that children are the ones to ‘know better’, that do the right things, despite what they witness, and what elders say and do.
At Work is where we go, physically or mentally, to contribute towards our personal economic well-being, our partner’s and family’s, and generally of our community and country.
Similar to ‘At Home’, At Work can be anywhere, not necessarily a specific place, or building or farm or employer or economic occupation; it is rather, the activity we do that provides economic rewards in compensation for the contributions we make.
At Work is different to a hobby, or recreation; it implies ‘making a living’, even if that is a horrible way of putting it.
Averages at a global level hide so many variations that they end up being rather blunt; however, they can be indicative and so have some utility. The average person who works (does something for economic benefits) spends about 50 years At Work for anything between eight and 12 hours a day. For those who are fortunate, At Work may be a pleasant place with many rights and entitlements. However, in many parts of the world, being At Work is arduous, dangerous, poorly rewarded with few if any rights, and is generally unpleasant.
At Work circumstances make up the most influential part of social circumstances – where there are enormously influential leadership moments. It is here where workers, employees, managers, business owners, farmers, entrepreneurs, and ‘bosses’ have immense influence over peoples’ livelihoods, lives, well-being and quality of life.
Included here is the political arena; the people, structures and processes that are supposed to represent the will of the citizens and aid in making their lives better and more meaningful. Politicians and bureaucrats are At Work for the common good and benefit of the citizenry.
Arguably, Influential Leadership At Work is the most impactful social domain because this is where people, institutions and process have the greatest leverage to influence our world. It is probably also why so much effort and energy is expended here on leadership issues. (I could argue that The Home is most influential, but I leave that till another time.)
When a president, or a chief executive, or such-like makes errors in judgement, when Influential Leadership is not consistently and sustainably practiced, the ramifications are enormous. It is thus rightfully sensible that getting ILP embodied At Work is a major campaign.
At Play is what we do if not At Work, and not doing chores At Home or anywhere between. At Play are hobbies, recreational activities, sports, and socially oriented outreach.
A common feature of At Play activities is that they are not directly concerned with deriving economic benefits, even if particular people are At Work in these domains. There are millions of golfers across the world, but only a few thousand who are At Work on the course; as would be the case for chess, computer gaming and mountain biking.
So-called recreational activities (being At Play) are intrinsic needs that contribute to our mental, emotional, physical and social well-being.
Influential Leadership does not reside At Home, At Work or At Play – it goes with us, everywhere and Anywhere.
ILP is designed to be our constant companion, no matter our time, place or circumstances.
An inherent principle of ILP is that it as a wall-to-wall pattern of leadership behaviour; this is characteristic exemplified by the Anywhere social domain:
- The old-fashioned notion of a leader is that it is a person (almost always a man too…) who leads or controls a group, organisation or country, or is at the top of their field of expertise. This outdated approach confers the title of ‘leader’ to a position or designation, rather than to leadership behaviours. It is simply fallacious to assume that a person with a title is by implication a leader.
This is why there is a general sense that ‘our leaders’ have let us down’, or ‘we need new leadership’, and so forth. It is assumed that ‘they are our leader’, and they must do things for us; lead us.
These are not leaders, they are people doing particular jobs. The only way they can be a leader is to behave like one – in their job, or elsewhere.
The director-general of home affairs was acknowledged for helping a homeless woman who was severely injured by a run-away truck. Despite the danger of other traffic and being on her way to the airport, she instructed her driver to stop so she could assist. Together they directed traffic and saved a life.
- The Influential Leadership approach, the contemporary approach, has behaviour as the pivot point and not the words on a business card, these are incidental.
This form of leadership poses new sets of opportunities and challenges to everyone. ILP makes everyone accountable for being a leader; personal leadership cannot be contracted out to others. Yes, it must be expected that people with power, position and title behave like leaders, but that requirement does not take away individuals responsibility, whoever and wherever they are.
ILP places pressure on those who assume that they have a right, an entitlement, to be designated as the leader; now they have to behave like leaders or they are just what their business cards say they are…
And, all of us need to be more precise with our use of the words ‘leader’, and ‘leadership’.