“I found the simple one-word definition for leadership I like best: influence. Every time you influence someone to take an action, positive or negative, you are leading that person.” Hans Finzel
Every parent understands the power of influence when it comes to the peer group that their children form. Good parents encourage their youngsters to have quality friends. It is the same for us as adults. We become like those we associate with in so many ways. We talk like them, we dress like them and we tend to behave consistent with them. Wanting to be accepted we conform to the dynamics of our friend group.
In counseling couples, we have heard this statement many times over:
“I wish I knew who was influencing my (wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend).”
We often wonder that too, when we get stuck in the counseling process. There are times when we know that something or someone is sabotaging the progress. And not surprisingly we will discover that a third party is giving advice contrary to what we are recommending. That advice may be very well-intentioned, but not godly. Or it may be manipulative in some way, like from a lover, or prejudiced, as from a bitter divorced friend.
There are several elements that I would look for when choosing who will mentor and influence me. Among those that I would consider essential are good character, neutrality, positivity, kindness and wisdom. I also would add to this list someone who has great emotional self regulation.
I put neutrality on this list because I want someone who can confront me as well as support me. I don’t really like being confronted, but I am critically aware that I will not grow or get better if I only get affirmation. By the way, this is not an invitation to point out all my flaws on social media – just sayin’. PM me instead.
I have pointed out before that we aren’t just influenced by close relationships. Books, television, social media, blogs, etc also can have a profound effect on us as well. Some of those sources are little different than gossip and hearsay. I try to be careful what I allow into my mental vault. I stay away from angry diatribes and overly negative sources, and balance what I hear against my own personal perspectives. The Bible is rich with viewpoints that challenge my perceptions. I cannot navigate my life solely based on my experiences and feelings. They are simply too narrow and too subjective.
The good news is that when we are guided by the Holy Spirit in particular, we will have a sense of when we are receiving valuable insight, or when we are just hearing what we want to hear. But regardless we can use that measuring stick as a reference. When I was in the dental business it seemed that every manufacturer of a product would bring us data that “proved” that theirs was the best. Were they lying? Well, maybe. But I suspect they used any data that supported the outcome they were looking for and rejected any data that didn’t. That kind of selectivity can be dishonest and we can fall into the same trap, too, if we don’t have a humble heart.
Use good judgment! Be discerning! Be careful who influences you!