What Really Makes A Leader? 5 Similarities Between Leaders & Influencers
The other day, I was talking to someone in my new job. She had overheard something about me going to Iraq, and thought it was a bit random, but concluded, “this is Steph, so she’ll be going to do something inspirational.”
This led me to think a bit about the difference between being inspirational, and being a leader, and well…what actually makes someone a leader? It’s easy to follow someone you find inspirational. This is why so many Instagrammers have so many followers, who are inspired by the pictures they are posting. But are the most influential people always great leaders?
Someone who is seen as inspirational can have more of an impact than the leader. Which is fine, for those who are on your side. But what if you have someone who is given the title of leader, but without the qualities of leadership? And apart from being someone who can influence those they are leading, what makes a leader a leader? And… last question…can an influencer be a leader?
Now, depending on whether you look at secular or biblical principles, will determine how you personally would define a leader. But most people seem to agree:
1. A leader has a following
Look behind you! If no one is following who you are, what your vision is, or what you’re doing…. errrr…who exactly are you leading? A dictator will force and coerce people to follow them. A leader naturally gathers followers who see something they connect with, and feel inspired by.
2. A leader knows they aren’t always the best person for the job
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not talking about a lack of confidence, or a false humility. I’m talking about recognising your strengths and weaknesses. Seeing the strengths and weaknesses in others, and playing to people’s strengths more than their weaknesses. AKA – delegation. A good team leader not only knows how to confidently direct the rest of the team, but how to encourage and inspire the weakest person to their strength. Moving people from where they were, to greater places.
3. A leader knows how to communicate, even when they don’t have the answers
It surprises me how many people don’t realise how important communication is. When leaders don’t communicate, their followers will start to talk amongst themselves! And the message will more likely than not, be a very different message altogether. Communication isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about continuing to engage and influence – even in the storm! I find those who are honest about not knowing or understanding something, are easier to identify with – because (believe it or not) I don’t have all the answers.
4. A leader isn’t intimidated by the inspiration of others
There’s a certain quality in the leader who knows their own sphere of influence has its limitations, and rather than feeling insecure about it, they look to those more influential than themselves. None of us ever reaches the top – there’s always somewhere further to go. Especially when you entrust your life to God, He always has more for us to accomplish. Leaders know they need to be inspired as much as they desire to inspire. And there are some great leaders who are secure enough in who they are that they don’t feel intimidated by the influence of others in their following. Rather than putting them down, they learn how to build on this to continue to lead and inspire.
5. A leader has a way of connecting with people
The best kind of influencers are those who make time to find out about the person who follows them. Attracting the followers can be easy in comparison to inspiring them to continue following you. It involves crouching down to where they’re at, in order to inspire them to attain greater potential for greater outcomes. An excellent leader is able to connect with people outside their normal sphere of influence as well as those who are following – it’s easy to connect with those who are already with you!
So, whether you are (or think you are) a leader, an influencer – or both in one package – there are many other elements to what makes an influencer a leader, like accountability, God’s calling (Christian ministry) or, knowing where you’re going.
And while as a Christian I do think there is an element of God’s directive in some areas of leadership/management/influencers, both in the workplace and in Church, I also think a large chunk of it is humanity. I think people can force their way into becoming a leader, through a variety of techniques, manipulation and “training”, but influencers, especially the ones who God moves through, like Joseph, like Daniel, like, Abigail….these are the ones who have a real ability to lead people – not by saying the right words, but just by who they are.