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“Leadership is influence.” John C. Maxwell

Influence is a great one-word definition of leadership. Here’s another statement John is known for: “Whoever thinks he’s leading, but has no one following, is only taking a walk!” That line still makes me smile. It’s just so true!

Leadership is not a position or a title, it’s your ability to lead in such a way that others follow you in pursuit of the vision.

It doesn’t matter where you are on the organizational chart. It doesn’t matter what title is on your business card. True leaders have influence and can lead from wherever they are in the organization.

I’d like to challenge you with another true leadership statement. Your influence is either increasing or decreasing, it is never staying the same.

It might seem like it’s in neutral or holding about the same, but it’s not. It is always (usually very slowly) increasing or decreasing. The reason it might appear to be holding at the same level is because the church is so relationally oriented, and with relationships things move (change) slowly. Usually at a rate that is so slow it is virtually imperceptible unless you know what to look for.

I can’t count how many pastors get blindsided by this. They call me and say something like: “I thought everything was fine. We were all doing great together then “all of a sudden the wheels came off’”. I promise, it wasn’t all of a sudden. It was happening for a long time but they didn’t see it. Their influence was decreasing, perhaps ever so slowly, but it was.

It is possible for you to work hard and have your influence decrease. It is possible for you to be godly and pray much and yet still experience a decrease in influence. It is possible for you to feel called to your current church and have your influence decrease. But let me offer encouragement. In fact, I have good news for you!

The good news is twofold:
1. You can intentionally increase your influence!
Take ownership of your personal leadership growth. Don’t blame your boss or the environment you are in. Incredible leadership material is only a click away.

Leadership development is a lifetime pursuit, but for a great start, I recommend you read, and practice, John C. Maxwell’s The Five Levels of Leadership.

It is also important that you get time with other sharp leaders who have more success and experience than you do. Offer to buy coffee or lunch. Come well prepared with good questions that you have written down. If you ask for one hour, don’t take more than one hour. Be diligent in your effort to practice what you learn from each meeting. Even if you come away with only one transferrable nugget of truth, or principle that connects with you, that is worth every minute of that meeting.

Keep in mind that while it’s helpful and good for you to get specific answers to your questions, learning how that leader thinks is even more valuable. If I understand how those who mentor me think, I can translate that to dozens of other scenarios.

2. You can see evidence of your influence increasing.
You don’t have to remain in the dark. It’s not a guessing game or something that you must wonder about. It’s easy to see if your influence is increasing.

Here are some basic and practical things to look for:
• More people seek you out.
• People say yes easier and faster.
• People’s loyalty toward you increases.
• More people care about what you think.
• You are trusted with greater levels of responsibility.
• More people want your opinion.
• People’s trust in you as a person increases.
• Your productivity increases.
• People embrace your ideas with greater trust.
• Favor and momentum are not strangers to you.
• You get promoted.
• More people want to be on your team.

This list is not comprehensive, but you get the idea. The bottom line is that more people follow you and the potential for your church to grow (see new people follow Jesus) increases dramatically! This does not guarantee your church will become large, but increased leadership (influence) along with God’s presence and power sets you up for growth. Of course this is not easy, but it is that simple.

It’s equally important to know when your influence is decreasing! If you take the list and write the opposite for each bullet, you will have practical evidence that your influence is headed in the wrong direction. Here it is, take a look:
• Fewer people seek you out.
• People say no to many of your asks, and yeses come more difficult.
• People’s loyalty toward you decreases.
• Less people care about what you think.
• You are trusted with lesser levels of responsibility.
• Less people want your opinion.
• People’s trust in you as a person decreases.
• Your productivity decreases.
• People embrace your ideas with decreasing trust.
• Favor and momentum are difficult to come by.
• You don’t get promoted.
• Less people want to be on your team.

Like even the best of the major league baseball players, leaders will find themselves in a batting slump. Things don’t seem to be going as well as usual. Don’t panic, that is normal. That is different, however, than a long term pattern of decreasing influence. Just keep stepping up to the plate and keep swinging.

What direction is your leadership headed? If it is decreasing, don’t panic. But dig in. Start today. Turn-around is possible. If your influence is increasing, that is great! But don’t get comfortable. Keep learning, keep growing and keep getting better.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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