Last week, I came across this quote while perusing the internet. I think it might be credited to Russell H. Ewing, but there were so many variations, that it’s hard to tell.

A boss creates fear; a leader creates confidence.
Bossism creates resentment; leadership breeds enthusiasm.
A boss says “I;” a leader says “we.”
A boss knows all; a leader asks questions.
A boss fixes blame; a leader fixes mistakes.
A boss knows how; a leader shows how.
A boss relies on authority; a leader relies on cooperation.
A boss drives; a leader leads.

As a person who has had quite a few titles in church and in my career, this quote spoke volumes to me.  Anyone with a title can be a boss, but it takes a different quality to be a leader.  I went to the Word and came across this Old Testament passage:

And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among the scouts who had searched the land, rent their clothes, And they said to all the company of Israelites, The land through which we passed as scouts is an exceedingly good land.

If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their defense and the shadow [of protection] is removed from over them, but the Lord is with us. Fear them not.

But all the congregation said to stone [Joshua and Caleb] with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting before all the Israelites. — Numbers 14:6-10 AMP

This is a passage from the familiar story in which God told Moses to send a few leaders to scout out Canaan, after promising the land to them. Among the 12 sent was Joshua. At this time, Joshua didn’t really have much clout, so when it turned out that he and Caleb were the only two who thought they’d be able to take the land, nobody paid him any attention. In fact, it was like he and Caleb hadn’t even spoken. The Israelites were so disappointed and frustrated by the majority’s report that, as was typical, they got loud and belligerent.  Joshua tried to help them out and encourage them, but they weren’t hearing him.

The problem, I think, is that although Joshua had status and leadership skills, he had no influence – or at least not enough to gain the support needed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. So one lesson we can learn from this story is that it takes more than a position and title to move people. In order to get things done easily, you need influence. According to best-selling author John Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence. The authority a leader has can drive his team members to do what they’ve been asked to do, but it takes influence to inspire them. And inspiration yields enthusiasm, mentorship, a positive work environment, thoroughness, generosity, commitment, and the list goes on and on. Authority can get the job done; but influence makes it easy and pleasant.

So how does one develop influence?

  • A leader who will become influential should have an influential mentor. (Joshua had Moses). Not only does this help you to learn the skills your mentor models, but it also validates you before people who don’t know you well enough to trust your leadership.
  • Position is not enough; you must build a relationship with the people you lead. Joshua was a tribal leader, but that wasn’t enough to help him to influence the others, especially since there were 10 other tribal leaders who opposed him. It’s important to have the trust of the people, and they won’t have much confidence in you if you haven’t demonstrated a track record of solid leadership.
  • Make sound decisions and operate in integrity. Even though Joshua was right, he still couldn’t influence the people to listen to him. That had to be frustrating. Surely you’ve been there (I know I have). But, even when you know you’re right and no one will listen…
  • …You must be consistent and trustworthy. To develop influence, you have to be willing to hang in there and be consistent and reliable, even when no one is following you. This inspires confidence and stability, and as I’ve said before, no one is going to follow a leader in whom they have no confidence.
  • Be sure to use your influence wisely and not to manipulate, take advantage of, or abuse the people who trust you. Joshua used his to lead the Israelites to success.

Leaders may start out with positions, power, authority, and titles, but they never start out with influence. It must be developed and earned. When Joshua returned with his recommendation for taking on Canaan, he couldn’t get one person from the congregation to take heed, even though he was right. What a far cry from what the Israelites said to him later on in Joshua 1:16-18 (MSG):

They answered Joshua: “Everything you commanded us, we’ll do. Wherever you send us, we’ll go. We obeyed Moses to the letter; we’ll also obey you—we just pray that God, your God, will be with you as he was with Moses. Anyone who questions what you say and refuses to obey whatever you command him will be put to death. Strength! Courage!”

Gotta love influence. 🙂

For more on this subject, I recommend Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others, by Jim Dornan and John Maxwell.