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Leadership And Influence
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- Is leadership just "influence"? No. Or, perhaps more accurately, not
- It depends on what one considers influence and to what degree one believes that we can
change other's behaviors and influence, manipulate or cajole them to carry out their
respective tasks as followers. It also depends on the degree to which, having moved
individuals to do their respective tasks, that leaders really influence and change their
heart in an effective and lasting manner.
- Degrees of Influence
- Of course, whether one is within or outside the church, there are degrees of influence
even as there are degrees of willingness to be influenced. Some people are easier to
influence than others. Some people are easier to influence in some areas than others.
- For example, it is relatively simple to influence an adolescent who has just received
their drivers license to take the car for a spin. It may be relatively simple for a
"Daddy's girl" in need of an extra ten dollars for whatever purpose to pull the
heart strings of her father...even though it may be against his better judgment. By the
same token, it may be nearly impossible for the same father, immediately after having
given the ten dollars to his daughter, to influence "daddy's girl" to do
chores--or even a favor-- as a gesture of thanks.
- One can, however, utilize various leadership "influences" to deal with the
"impossible" situation of the unmotivated Daddy's girl. The father can offer more
money. He can threaten to withhold the money. He can physical prevent the daughter from
other favors. He can also physically supervise the daughter until the task is done. He can
also manipulate the environment (e.g. "no more TV, telephone, etc) or expel her from
the environment (e.g. go to your room!). He can try to appeal to higher values of
generosity, thanksgiving, kindness and politeness.
- Which of these is most effective? Which of these will have the greatest degree of
influence? Hmmm, I'm not quite sure either. If influence means to draw out certain
behaviors, its certainly possible that any or all of these might work. If influence,
however, means to change the heart, values, and aspirations of the individual, it may not
be so easy and clear-cut.
- Influence As Control
- In the example of "Daddy's Girl" above, what do all the potential strategies
for motivating the daughter have in common? What they have in common is that each of those
behaviors are controlling. Though perhaps well-intended, they are--pure and
simple--controlling strategies not unlike the "carrot and stick" approach to
motivation. Take away the carrot and stick and the motivation is gone.
- Influence is control or, more accurately, an attempt to control. That is not to say it
is necessarily good or bad. It is simply to say that it is just that, control. Or is it?
Could it be that "control" is just an illusion? Could it be that we really don't
- Could it be that influence is simply what happens when one speaks to the needs, desires
and values of another in such a way as to have their own internal controls directed in
concert with others with similar needs, desires and values? Could it be that if those
needs, desires and values are not within that individual that leaders--no matter how
influential or persuasive--will have little or no positive influence?
- Influence In Biblical Perspective
- Certainly the Bible calls leaders to exert positive influence and leadership. St. Paul
in his pastoral exhortations to others and in his own ministry shared how he preached
boldly and persuasively. He used leadership to exert influence.
- However, Paul had learned early in his Christian ministry that he was merely a sower. He
only planted seeds. Oh, certainly, the means by which he planted "seeds" was in
the most influential, exciting, passionate, persuasive manner that the giftedness which
God gave made possible .
- But did his leadership influence others? Did it influence others equally? Did it always
influence people and circumstances to the response intended and expected? The answer is
- How did Paul learn that? Certainly it was not an easy lesson for an
"all-too-much-in-control" Saul turned Paul. It was only in defeat, rejection,
being beaten up and left for dead, disappointments, and in extreme weakness that he
finally learned what many leaders never learn. Leaders cannot, do not, and never will
really be able to control results. All they can do is control their own output not
guarantee organizational outcomes.
- This in an imperative observation for leaders of all stripes and ranks--Christians or
non-Christians, pastors or lay. The ability to influence has no guarantees. To expect
otherwise is not only a fantasy, it is a delusion which may set the stages for personal
mental health crises.
- What Can You Influence
- What can you influence? Leadership, if it can influence anything at all, can
only evoke reactions and responses. In the case of Daddy's girl above, the loving father
could suggest courses of actions. He could not, however, control the
course or outcome of her actions. Her responses could range anywhere along the spectrum
from extremely positive to extremely negative. Her reactions could have been agreement,
disagreement, exhilaration to do more than asked, apathy, rebellion, or a plethora of
- When exerting influence, leaders can expect that though they cannot control the
strength, intensity or effectiveness of the responses--let alone control the responses
themselves--they can expect there will be reactions and chain reactions to their
attempts at leadership--overt and/or covert, healthy or unhealthy, expected or unexpected.
- The Real Truth Of Leadership
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies also in leadership. For every action of
influence there is a reaction to it which, in the determination of the responder, will
be equal and opposite. The leader can express preferences, give examples and model what he
considers to be appropriate desired "equal" and "opposite" responses.
But such does not guarantee the desired response will be displayed.
- The real "read-between-the-lines" truth of leadership may be this: Leadership
is not just influence. Leadership is influencing and accepting the inherent uncontrollable
risks that come from exerting influence.
- Some Observations
- Given these observations that leaders may not have as much influence as they might wish,
leaders--especially Christian leaders--should consider the following.
1) Just because you are the leader does not mean you are--or should be--in
control. God is.
2) Though leaders may use bureaucracies, policies, wisdom and charisma et al. to gain
control, all things considered, these are simply tools for exerting influence, not for
control. The results of the influence of such tools is also out of one's control.
3) The recognition that leaders do not control outcomes is not, in any way, to suggest
that leadership is, or should be, passive. Nor is it to suggest that leaders just sit back
and let God randomly do whatever He will do and let their ministries fall prey to entropic
forces. To do so is to commit a most grievous act spiritual disobedience and defiance of
4) God's calling is exactly that: a calling. It is a calling to be
actively and energetically engaged in whatever ministry efforts are needed to win some. It
is a calling to passionately preach the Word even when the results are virtually
guaranteed to be dismal and the positive results sparse (Isaiah 6).
5) The Christian pastor's call to leadership is a calling to determine, on the basis of
purely scriptural principles, God's vision for your ministry calling in whatever setting
God has given you. Applied to churches, it is a calling for pastors to lead a process of
creating and clarifying mission statements, to set short and long-term objectives for
ministry, and to oversee--and influence--strategic processes by which these objective will
be enacted for the glory of God.
6) It is also a calling to recognize that even as it is God who has given the calling,
that it was God who empowered, enabled, and guided the output required by the calling,
that it is God who will determine the results of the calling.
7) The most healthy--and often overlooked--element of leadership planning is to set the
plans into the hands of God. Perhaps this is one of the greatest leadership shortfalls in
the church. Moses, after having received the Ten Commandments, held a public gathering of
the people in worship to present to them what God had given.
Scriptures indicate that when God's people were presented with plans from the Lord,
they were placed in a covenantal posture of worship which required that 1) they recognize
God's leading in their planning, 2) they proclaim their response--to God--of their intent
to follow God's leading, and 3) they knew that the success of the endeavor was God's to
determine. Often, an altar was built afterwards as a lasting sign of their covenantal
recognition of God's ultimate working in their lives to accomplish His will in, with,
through, and among them.
8) Perhaps it is time for congregations to move beyond simply approving various
ministry actions by means of Board or congregational actions. Could it be that the most
essential step--of presenting it to God--has been the most forgotten step? Could it be
that the omission of this step has so thoroughly perverted the expectations of God's
people that they look to their leaders as guarantors of results and not God?
9) Healthy leaders are able to separate outputs from outcomes. So are healthy
followers. Perhaps the greatest ministry health-related crisis in the church is that God's
people have forgotten whose church the Church really is, who really builds the Church, and
whose will is that which really matters in the Church. It Jesus Christ's Church.
To the extent that pastors, parishioners, or other Christian leaders believe that they
really build, control, determine and shape the will of the church is the extent to which
that congregation is in danger of the greatest idolatry of self-worship. No wonder that
congregations plagued by control issues are troubled congregations. They have effectively
side-stepped the Author and Finisher of faith--and faith itself.
10) Healthy and effective Christian leaders will aggressively and passionately seek and
utilize any and all appropriate resources possible for using in extending God's ministry
through them and their church. Whether secular or religious, denominational or
para-church, God has provided numerous resources for possible application in the church.
It is imperative that whatever the resources considered and/or utilized, leaders
maintain the control filter which recognizes that all plans that are made are not
guaranteed. They are simply placed into the hands of God as the greatest and
sweetest-smelling sacrifice of thanksgiving we can give to a God who will use this
sacrifice in the way He shall choose according to the pleasure of His gracious will.
- Some Final Thoughts
- Is leadership influence?
- Perhaps it depends on what is meant by "influence" and whether or not
"influence" means to shape outputs or guarantee outcomes. As one answers this
question, one must also take into consideration the following: does it include God,
exclude God, make God subservient to us, or make us subservient to God?
- Perhaps the greatest consideration in influence is the consideration of what motivations
are used in exerting influence. Is influence exerted in such a manner that the Law is
improperly used to motivate God's people in subtle ways (e.g. guilt, obligation, fear,
etc) to do what is needed? Or do leaders influence by means of setting forth a proper
Gospel-focused message which focuses the Christian's every motivation purely, exclusively,
and decisively on their response to Christ's love for them?
- Perhaps the most important issue may not be whether leadership is influence. Instead,
the issue may be is Christian leadership exerting Christian influence and Christian
expectations among the people of God. Indeed, the greatest influence leaders can
experience is the recognition of God's minute-by-minute influencing of every success,
failure, triumph and tragedy in their lives and ministries. And isn't that really one of
the most important aims of Christian leadership?
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
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Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:59 PM