It has been quite popular to talk about leadership as influence. While I certainly agree that a leader influences people, the function of leadership is broader and dare I say “stronger” than influencing.
Influence is defined by Webster’s dictionary as the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.
If we only see leadership as getting an effect from another person, then calling leadership influence is fine. But, leadership is so much more.
Influence alone seems passive, if not soft, and misses the heart of leadership in the twenty-first century where talent is abundant and people want and expect ownership of their goals and outcomes.
There is a word that I have been using that helps me remember the essence of leadership. It is a word that connotes strength and action.
The word is Activator.
It is a word that describes the deeper and most important role of a leader. Employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance greatly increase when a leader activates the natural motivation, talent, and abilities of the people they lead.
Activation is a leader’s ability to “turn-on” or unleash the best in the people they lead. Activation is a mechanism for identifying and leveraging the uniqueness and ability of each person and helping them align with the direction of their team and organization.
The job of a leader is not helping people survive at work and drive decent performance. Rather it is to call people to a higher level of work and living and activate the best in them so they can thrive.
It is very evident in every aspect of our lives, that our potential cannot be unleashed on our own. Someone must help. We all need a person or a group of people in our lives that activate us. People who bring out the best in us through support, energy, perspective, validation, encouragement, accountability, and from others.
Activating others is also a fundamental activity that increases our quality of living. It gets to the true core of who we are as humans and the character that, when demonstrated, gives us a sense of satisfaction far greater than any extrinsic reward. Remember that deep internal feeling of satisfaction and intrinsic gratification you received the last time you helped someone and didn’t expect anything in return.
That is it!
Image if you were able to create a culture where everyone not only collaborated well but were deeply committed to bringing out the best in each other? Imagine the impact this kind of organization could have. A culture like this can only be created with a leader who chooses to activate people.
In the new world of work, leadership is not about driving self-serving goals. It is about activating each person’s uniqueness, skill, purpose, and passion in a way that aligns with the team’s goals.
When we do this we are more than influencers. We are activators!