The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
The Opportunity and Danger of Influence
Following my farewell speech, several of my team approached me to say personal goodbyes. Waiting in the back, and the last person to step forward, was a manager. He confided that while not active in terms of volunteering at or attending social events I’d hosted, he was deeply impacted by my leadership. Since this was the first time he expressed such feelings, I looked him straight in the eye and asked him, “How?”
He stated that because of my personal emphasis on upholding responsibility for my well being and my active modeling, he’d decided to lose weight. In fact, over the last two years he had lost 185 pounds! Standing before me was a svelte man. I shared how proud I was of him. He went on to say that he observed how I shared and lived my faith and decided he wanted the same as well. A year prior, he’d found faith as a Christian.
My point is this: I never once spoke to him personally about well being or Christianity. But he watched, adopted, and changed. Transformed.
Last week, I attended a funeral and visitation for a former employee. He was not a vice-president, director, manager, or lead, but I knew him just the same. After seven years at the same company, I’d made it my priority to know everyone. I was no longer his leader, but refused to miss this visitation.
That day, I met his wife for the first time and introduced myself. She responded, “Oh, I know who you are. Eric spoke about you all the time.” “What, he spoke about me?” I thought to myself. “What for? What about?”
Eric loved to laugh, so I took a chance and made a subtle joke. His widow and I broke out laughing, then hugging, and then crying—as if we’d known each other as long as I had known Eric. People go home and tell stories—good or bad—about their leaders.
Yesterday, via LinkedIn, I had a message from an operations manager at one of my former hospitals. She shared how impressed she was by the training that one of my staff received through our internal IT program. She ended up taking the course herself and it changed her personal and professional life. She was so impacted that she switched careers and became an instructor for the course.
Your influence has repercussions beyond the immediate.
I could tell you more stories, but you get it. As leaders we wield significant influence. This influence can be for harm as well as good. We must be very careful and aware. It does not matter what you say, it is what you do. Our actions speak louder than words and they have the power for good or evil. Scary.