Leading Requires Influence

Leadership

The term “leader” is often associated with leaders of organizations—businesses, nonprofits, and religious organizations—but there are really many different types of leaders. You don’t have to be a CEO or manager in order to be a leader. Leaders emerge in many different kinds of situations and many different styles of leadership can be effective, depending on the environment.

For example, I used to work with a company on the border in Mexico, and there was a point where there was a lot of drug and gang activity going on in the area. One night, I had to go through a section of town where it was pretty dark, and I remember being very scared. At one point, I walked through a particular area where a gang was loitering and I was stopped by them. I noticed that there was one guy who held a certain command. He wasn’t  bigger or stronger than anybody else, pretty average actually, but everyone was just waiting for him to give a sign. He stopped me in the middle of the road and didn’t allow me to get through. We engaged in a conversation and I was able to manage it in a way that he finally allowed me to cross without taking anything from me.

As I was walking away, it struck me, “What is it that makes this average-looking guy the leader of this group of people?” He had, in some way or another, a position of influence that affected the behavior of the others. He has no formal title or corner office, but he is a leader. He has followers. He defines what is good for his group and dictates how they are going to behave. It’s a fairly autocratic leadership style, but it works for that gang. This significant influence that he has is very different from some of the managers and leaders that I work with in different organizations. Being a leader is more than just having a title. It’s having influence.

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