In the excellent book The Five Levels of Leadership John Maxwell says, “Too often leaders place a higher value on impressing others than on having integrity with them.” This brings to mind a story.
There was a vice president of field sales in a large corporation who was in a perpetual turf war with marketing.
He criticized their lack of field support. He accused marketing of “carpet bombing” customers with too much mail.
Every month he contested the biggest direct marketing order as revenue belonging to his sales organization.
One day it was announced he had been promoted. He was now senior vice president of sales AND marketing. His first official act was to fire the head of marketing.
Days later he met with some of his new marketing staff. It was held in the office of his vanquished rival, even though he had a larger office of his own.
“Look at this,” he snickered, looking over the computer. “He got daily emails with a vocabulary word of the day.” Attendees obliged him with nervous chuckles.
I was at that meeting.
It was the beginning of a period marked by intimidation, ridicule and backbiting as the means for gaining power and influence in the organization. As you might guess, it also triggered an exodus of people who could not tolerate the incivility.
That was ten years ago. I do not remember what the ‘word of the day’ was. In retrospect, I think it should have been love.
Love and influence are not words we typically put together.
It goes against common perceptions of what we associate with influential leaders: a commanding presence, a big picture strategist, a no-nonsense problem solver, a powerful and intimidating authority figure. But a loving person? Not so much.
When it comes to influencing others, it is essential.
Success in any area of life depends on your ability to favorably influence others. You can’t influence others without establishing a relationship built on trust and respect.
And love is the greatest principle to guiding relationships.
The heart of influence
In our culture, love is primarily understood in the context of weak-kneed romance. But that is a limited view. The Greeks use three words to define love:
Eros – a passionate, romantic desire
Philia – an affectionate, brotherly relationship
Agape – a sacrificial, giving relationship
How many weddings have you attended where 1 Corinthians 13 is read? It is commonly referred to as the love chapter from the bible. While most associated with the marriage relationship, it was written to define agape love.
Even the secular world universally accepts this as the ultimate definition of love. Anybody who strives to bring the greatest degree of influence over others is wise to adopt this temperament:
- Be not envious, or boiling over with jealousy
- Be not boastful, vain, haughty or disdainful of others
- Be not rude or unmannerly
- Be not self-seeking or insistent on your own way
- Be not resentful; do not carry a grudge
- Do not rejoice at injustice
- Pay no attention to a suffered wrong; don’t be vengeful
- Be ever ready to believe the best of others
- Have enduring patience
This is not merely a checklist of warm-fuzzy ideas on how to be more popular. These are the character traits you need to communicate to people on a relational level so they are willing to follow you and be influenced by you.
How to be a stand-out influencer
People can sense your heart motives. If you are trying to impress them, it shows. If you are trying to have integrity with them, they will trust you. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this as the content of your character.
Whether you are trying to influence on social media, in content you create or in real life, people see the hidden person of your heart. Following the principles of agape love – the giving temperament – is the way to become a person of true influence.