Leadership is…

BTL is in the business of building individuals, teams, and leaders. We are paid by leaders to transform them and their teams. So what exactly is leadership? Take a moment and fill in the blank. Leadership is ________.  When I recently asked this question in BTL team practice, I heard a variety of words describing what leadership is. Leadership is hard, powerful, privilege, positional, difficult, trust, lonely, unfair, and many other attributes, I heard. It seemed there are many words to describe what leadership is. There really aren’t.


Leadership is – in a word – influence.


Leadership is influence. And, the greatest leadership challenge is the challenge of influencing yourself. Most of us give away this power, today, to the media. Most humans are most influenced by whatever media they give their eyes to. As I reminded one of my strong and getting stronger clients, he is growing harder to influence and I like it. Slow down and let this in, friends. If you are going to become elite, you’ve got to become the greatest influence in your life. Crazy hard and true.


Leadership is influence. Throughout the history of time we have seen this demonstrated by the lives of game changers who came out of nowhere and changed the world. Jesus Christ came from a manger in Nazareth, never had positional power, never wrote a book, never had a lot of money, and we’re still talking about Him. Ghandi came from nothing, never held a government position, and still somehow changed India and the world. MLK jr was a young pastor in a tiny community and somehow influenced JFK and then LBJ to authorize civil rights legislation! Bono and U2 have done more for AIDS in Africa, victims of Chernobyl, and orphans in South America, than entire countries have accomplished. Study history, you’ll see – leadership is influence.


So, friend, invest a few more hours on your toughest leadership challenge, the challenge of leading yourself. You’ll see that when you start on the most difficult subject, leading you, it makes all the other ones just a little bit easier. Leadership is influence. Fact. Are you increasing your influence on you? Are you building strength within? Are you beginning to build a strong BTL core? Remember the words of C.S. Lewis, friend. “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.” Never stop the work within. Never.


Remember, you and I cannot take others further than we’ve taken ourselves.


Focus on becoming the number one influence in your life. Nobody can take this opportunity and responsibility from you. You are on the hook to lead you. Sadly, leader, your positional leadership can be taken from you through no fault of your own. Positional leadership is always precarious, it’s both a gift and curse. Today, we see an unprecedented failure of nerve in the world of work. We sabotage our leaders from above, below, and beside. We attack leaders for our feelings, forgetting it’s their job to make us uncomfortable. So, leaders, do not get comfortable in your perch. Keep doing the work within and building an ever stronger sense of self. Be hard on self without getting down on self. Expect your hard work within to go mostly unnoticed by others. You are not doing this work for others to see. You do the work within so you are prepared for the storms and adversity coming your way. You do the work so your greatest leadership challenge, influencing you, is a closed case. Your greatest leadership challenge is leading yourself through the trials and tribulations, especially the ones that nefariously arrive through no fault of your own.


Slow down and sit with this for awhile, friend. Slow down. God, help us all…

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