It was a bright autumn Saturday afternoon. What a beautiful time to go for a walk. So, I set out to go to a nearby park for a walk. On getting to the park, I walked for about 15 minutes and sat down on a bench to enjoy the scenery. Few minutes elapsed and I decided to put my head back and close my eyes……maybe I would hear the chirping sound of the birds or the sound of people’s footsteps as they walk over and crush the dry fallen autumn leaves. I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes I saw a woman, just about my age, having an intense conversation with her teenage daughter. They were sitting on the bench next to mine.
I could not make out what they were saying but I saw clearly that the daughter was listening intently to her mother, nodding in agreement, saying “Yes mommy” occasionally or smiling at times. Watching this beautiful mother-daughter intense moment of fellowship, I had a reflective moment: what a unique bond exists between this woman and her child. With the look on the child’s face, you could see the awe and respect in her eyes as she synthesized all her mother was telling her. Wow! This mother is a leader to her child. This woman is influential in her child’s life. But then I wondered, what could be responsible for such influence?
I began to examine a mother-child relationship. I have three of my own; therefore, it was an easy reflection for me. Starting from birth, through infancy, the feeding, the diaper moments, the yelling, the endless counseling at the dinner table, the life teachings, the sheltering, and oh before I forget, the love and affection that garnish all the above listed, giving of a mother to support her child so as to attain his/her goal in life. I came to the conclusion, it takes a giving and selfless mother’s love to be influential in a child’s life. It takes a TRUSTED RELATIONSHIP – one that is built on loyalty, integrity and honesty to be influential.
Now fast forward and transfer this to adult life. I began to connect this with family, friends, organizations, communities or any environment one finds oneself. What does it take to be influential in one’s domain? The principle that existed between the mother and child above can be applied to other areas of life. A good and dedicated mother plans her child’s life, the path he/she will tow and as months roll into years, she infuses love, teachings, beliefs, wisdom and other goodies of life into her child, hence the influence….
Influence, one of the greatest attribute of a leader, requires strategic planning…just like the mother-daughter tête-à-tête I witnessed at the park. In my reflective moment, I came to the conclusion that influence boils down to relationship. Yes! Relationship. If you succeed in developing an authentic trustworthy relationship with your target audience, you will be influential in their lives.
So how do you build an influential relationship?
I want to be influential but do not know how to go about developing that unique relationship that will influence people’s lives. How do I develop a relationship with my community, with that friend, my employees etc?
Here are some of the few life lessons I picked up along the years and believe me, they work all the time
Define your audience
Who are you trying to reach out to? An organization, a local community, a friend?….you need to define this because the next few pointers will be a fruitless effort if your target audience is not specific.
Identify their needs and find out what you can offer
Everybody likes to be supported and helped. When I speak of help, I do not specifically refer to financial needs. There are so many other ways people can be supported. Volunteer work is a practical example in a community/organization. Offering your skills and expertise free without strings are other means.
Invest time and resources
This is a spill-over from the previous point. Once you define their needs and how you can infuse their lives with what you offer, you have to be ready to GIVE…..GIVE, GIVE and GIVE. Invest your time and resources (knowledge, wisdom, information, expertise etc.) because no relationship is built without these two. I have a personal testimony of a dear friend who is good at this. Once she likes and wants to be close to you, she invests. She goes far and beyond and at the end of the day, she becomes influential in people’s lives.
Constantly develop yourself so you do not run dry
When you give, without replenishing, you can run dry. Avoid this by constantly seeking knowledge and growth.
Remember, relationship and trust are built over time so be ready to be patient and watch how it will evolve over the years……yes years
Work on your communication skills
Influential people are good communicators and a good communicator speaks in season. You want to speak the right words, at the right time and to the right people.
Build and watch your character, attitude, integrity, loyalty and commitment
These are so important I can’t even begin to over emphasize them. If you succeed in the above and you have a bad attitude, everything you have worked so hard for will crumble before you. Have you ever heard of this saying by Zig Ziglar “your attitude, not your aptitude (i.e. #s 1, `2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 above), determines your altitude” . These determines how far you go and how long you stay at the top of the leadership ladder
To wrap this up, influence is a great attribute of a leader. Influential people take their time to work and warm their ways into people’s hearts and lives. They are givers, they are authentic, loyal and they are patient people. Working on your relationship with people around you or your community is a great way to begin your influential journey. Remember, influence does not come overnight, it requires consistent intentional hard work.
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