“True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that cannot be mandated. It must be earned. The only thing a title can buy is a little time—either to increase your level of influence with others or to undermine it.” John Maxwell
I’ve always loved John Maxwell’s simple definition of leadership: Leadership is influence. Of all the things we could say about leadership, this succinct phrase sums it up so well. Influence is simply the effect we have on people. Everyone has influence. Good leaders have a positive influence; bad leaders have a negative influence. Since I was seventeen years old, I have been compelled by a desire to use my influence to lead others into an authentic relationship with Jesus and into their God-given destiny.
As I’ve gotten older, I have spent a lot of time thinking about influence. How do you get it? How do you keep it? How can you increase it? How can you use it for maximum impact? Not too long ago, I had a moment of insight around this topic as I was preparing to share with our staff. In one of those aha moments, I outlined four realms of influence that I saw operating in my life and in the lives of the people in our church community. Since then, we have shared this concept with our team leaders and small group leaders. I believe this breakdown will provide you with some practical handles to better understand and utilize the influence God has given you.
For each of the four realms of influence, I will tell you who you’re influencing, how you will influence them, and one question to consider as you reflect on each category.
1. THE CITY — You Go To Them
For us at VOUS Church, this means the people in Miami. You can fill in the blank for your city. If you view these four realms of influence as four concentric circles, the city is the outermost circle. It is the broadest category that contains the highest number of people. These are the people you and I interact with on a daily basis—in our apartment buildings, elevators, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants. In the traditional church world, this is the realm of “evangelism.”
How do you influence the people in your city? You encourage them.
Your city is not going to come to you. You are going to have to go to them. This level of influence is full of inconvenience, sacrifice and service. It is not easy to reach your city. It will require you to leave your comfort zone, your group of friends, your close community, and venture into the unknown world around you. The city is intimidating. But it is full of people who desperately need your encouragement.
So the question for you to consider in the realm of the city is: What relationships do I have outside of church?
2. THE CROWD — They Come To You
These are the people who attend your church. If you are reading this as a marketplace leader, you can think in terms of your company or industry. This realm of influence takes us one layer deeper into the four concentric circles. It is a narrower category than the city that contains fewer people. These are the people you interact with in your church lobby or courtyard, in the auditorium before and after services, in the parking lot as you head back to your car, outside the kids classrooms. In the traditional church world, this is the realm of “the church.”
How do you influence the people in the crowd? You model it for them.
The truth is, not everyone in your church building is a part of your church. Some of them are there visiting for the first time. Others have been spectating for weeks, months, or years, but have never actually stepped into the role of a contributor. In reality, they are the crowd. I don’t mean for that term to carry a negative connotation. I simply mean that being in the building does not make a person a part of your church community. As the crowd comes to you, they are looking for a picture of what it means to be a Christ follower, a volunteer, a leader. Don’t just describe it, demonstrate it. Let your actions speak louder than your words.
The question to ask yourself in the realm of the crowd is: Does what I do reflect what I believe and value?
3. THE CHURCH — You Go Together
These are the people who serve in your church. You may have a limited or a wide range of serving opportunities, you may have different terminology, but the idea is the same. This realm of influence is another step closer to the heart of your leadership. It is a category that is narrower than the previous two and includes an even smaller number of people. These are the individuals who are doing the work of ministry in your church—the people who park cars, greet guests, teach children, operate cameras, lead worship.
How do you influence the people in your church? You coach them.
Coaching is celebrating and correcting. You have to learn what the people you lead need so you can help them to grow. The people serving in your church want to grow and improve. By signing up to serve, they have raised their hands to say, I want to be a part of the solution to the problems in our community. I want to use my gifts, talents, and resources to serve God and others. These are the people who have given you permission to speak into their lives. The truth is, you are doing them a disservice if you are not taking every opportunity to do just that. Celebrating is easy, but we don’t do it nearly enough. Coaching doesn’t have to be hard, but it is received much more freely on the heels of encouragement and celebration.
The question to answer in the realm of the church is: Are you regularly celebrating and coaching those you lead?
4. THE CORE — They Take You Further
These are the few people carrying the weight of leadership in your church community. It was Andy Stanley who said, "The goal of leadership is not to get things done. The goal of leadership is to get things done through other people. And the ultimate goal of leadership is to get things done through other leaders, who get things done through other people." If you are looking to maximize your impact as a leader, it is not going to happen by you reaching every individual in your city alone. That is a very unlikely scenario. Great leaders maximize their influence by developing and working through other leaders. This is the smallest group of people—about three to twelve people—that you will influence on the deepest level. They are your staff, your leadership team, your executive suite, your core.
How do you influence the people in the core? You hold them accountable.
These are the relationships with the greatest investment and the greatest return. They require the most energy yet yield the greatest results. You should love and lead people in every realm of influence, but your highest priority should be the development of your core leaders. And this is the secret to why: The core builds the church, the church impacts the crowd, and the crowd reaches the city. This cycle is the four realms of influence at work. Neglect or ignore it and you will miss out on all of its benefits. Recognize and invest in it and you will reap its rewards.
The question to reflect on in the realm of the core is: Are you building a strong core or are you just gathering a crowd?
I’ll leave you with one last thought. Now that we have outlined the four realms of influence, here is the simple path to progress for your influence:
THE PATH TO PROGRESS
Get the city to the crowd
Get the crowd to the church
Get the church to the core