What a Baby and Toddler Taught Me About Influence

Here we go. Are you ready? It is unreal to me that I finally have an avenue through which I can share what I have learned and continue to learn about developing leaders. Nothing is guaranteed here. There is no magic formula for “growing great leaders”, but I do hope to provide for you insight into how leaders are grown. I firmly believe that leaders are developed, not born, and I sincerely hope that this becomes an “us” thing so that we can work together to raise children of positive influence.

Leadership is InfluenceBefore we really dive in to the growing of great leaders, I want to be clear on the definition of leadership from which I operate. Developing the Leader Within You and Becoming a Person of Influence by John Maxwell are two books that changed my life. The definition of leadership offered by Maxwell is simple and easy to understand. He defines leadership as “Influence… nothing more, nothing less”.

“Leadership is influence… nothing more, nothing less.” ~ John C Maxwell

Over time, I have also learned to understand influence on four levels, which we will cover in the coming weeks. For now, let’s focus on the simplicity and choice of influence. Two things happened today that will help me explain this to you.

First, I heard my 8-month old sweetie pie’s morning cries and walked in to her bedroom to get her ready for the day. To my great surprise, she was standing confidently in her crib for the first time. She was beaming and my heart swelled. In those few seconds, our mutual smiles and excitement influenced each other in a way that set the tone for today. We started today celebrating the sweet simplicity of a baby’s tiny accomplishment. And I shared my joy with others. The influence of that tiny moment rippled and caused smiles in more and more people as the minutes progressed.

The second event of today is where I was really reminded about the definition of leadership. My two-year old, while kind as can be, prefers to wake up in her own sweet time. When I have to wake her early so that I can get to work, our mornings are not always easy. Most of all, I feel frustrated that I cannot take the time to indulge her in a slow-to-wake kind of morning. Her grumpiness and my frustration can mingle and add to our mutual stress. On those days, I walk into work with my head down, immediately close my door and keep to myself until I can climb out of my stress-filled hole. To others I must appear cold, withdrawn and perhaps even disinterested. What an awful influence I am on those mornings… yikes! Let’s hope that ripple does not travel too far! It’s in these moments as a parent that I try to remind myself that I am indeed an adult with (let’s hope) a bit more emotional maturity than my two-year old. That means I have an opportunity to role model positive influence with her, even when she is grumpy. Instead of letting her melt-downs add to my stress, I can take the opportunity to influence her in a positive way. For me, that might mean whispering a morning greeting into her sweet little ears, or getting her with the tickle bug or even just taking one minute to give her an extra long hug. Perhaps then both of us will have a more positive influence on those around us. Influence in this situation is a choice for me, the adult. I can be a victim of a minor melt-down, or an agent of positive influence for both of us.

So influence. It is really quite simple. Each time we interact with others, we have the opportunity to influence them positively or negatively. When we choose to focus on influencing others positively, we are adding value to their lives in that moment. Our words of encouragement may give a friend the boost she needs to try something new that will be wildly successful. Our ability to actively listen to a hurting colleague may allow her to feel supported at a time when she feels all alone. Our willingness to take on someone else’s burden may provide the relief she or he needs to be a more present mom or dad. Who knows how our influence can change the lives of others? And if our intentional influence can positively change the life of even one person for one day, we have been an effective leader.

So here it goes. MomsOfInfluence.com is defining leadership as “influence… nothing more, nothing less”, just as John Maxwell did in his book. That will be our approach… to grow great leaders whose intentional influence will send a ripple of good through our families, communities, country and world.

How have you or your kids influenced others today, for better or worse? As a parent, how can you role model influence for your kids?


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