“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” — Ken Blanchard
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When I was a young boy I’d often pretend to be an old man.
I’d walk with a cane, pretend I had a beard, and sip juice from a mug as if it were coffee.
I was mimicking the actions of the people I was watching and as I grew older and met more people, this sphere of influence continued to grow and affected who I would become.
(In this case, a middle aged man with a beard who drinks a lot of coffee.)
Humans have a knack for picking up and mirroring the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional expressions of others, especially those who have a significant influence on our lives.
These major influencers may include family, friends, colleagues, educators, community leaders, celebrities, and the list goes on.
We see this when young children mimic the behaviors of their parents, when popular fashion trends mirror what celebrities are wearing, and when the movers and the shakers of the world rally support around causes they believe in, just to highlight a few examples.
The psychologist Albert Bandura suggested that there are four conditions required for such influence: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.
In other words, for our actions to be influenced by others, they have to have our attention, the actions have to be memorable, we have to be capable of reproducing the behavior, and we must be compelled into action.
And who has our attention? Certainly the people we admire—for who they are, what they can do, what they know, who they know, or how they have lived their lives.
Yet influence is a two way street. Just as others influence you, so too do you influence those around you, with the potential power to change the trajectory of their lives with the stories your words and actions tell.
You have someone’s attention; someone is always watching. The question is, are you serving as a positive influence or as a negative influence?
Who are your major influencers and how is their influence reflected in how you live your life? Who are you influencing with your words and actions and what impact does it have on their lives?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.