The Posture of Influence

Stroll down the aisles of any of the few remaining bookstore and you will see a litany of books on leadership. Some will address the personality of a leader. Others will offer leadership development processes. Many of these works are extremely important to understand how to wield influence in the workplace, ministry, and community settings. Without effective leadership, goals are rarely achieved. We get it. The question, however, remains as to why with all of this focus on leadership development that we end up with some many ineffective organizations.  I would like to suggest these institutions were bereft of an effective leadership posture. Without it,  ethical lapses are a predictable eventuality.

There are plenty of examples  of leadership lapses in corporate, faith-based, and not-for-profit settings. We can certainly blame several factors for the scandals, exploitation, and greed from Enron to Bear Sterns to the United States Congress.

I have written before on the notion of posture in advancing our spiritual purposes on earth. Check that post out HERE. In this post, I talk about how my first visit to a chiropractor enlightened me about the consequences of poor posture.

I have thought a lot about posture since then, particularly as it pertains to leadership and influence.

Like the chiropractor teaching me to improve my posture through proper shoulder and head placement, improved posture in leadership is about proper placement as well. It requires proper placement of one’s ego, self-centeredness, and motivations.

I’d like to suggest three domains where it is vital that we have a leadership posture to have the great influence for which we exist.

Why Does Everyone Need a Paul (Role Model)?

If you are like me and ready to elevate your life to a higher level then there is one move you absolutely must make.  Follow people who are at a higher level.  It seems pretty obvious. But, the reality is that most people who desire to be an elite spouse, parent, minister, athlete, or businessperson don’t achieve it because they don’t follow the right people. They don’t have mentors. Yet, mentors are so hard to find. The answer may be in finding your model rather than your mentor. Yet, too often, we fail to identify either.

The problem is understandable.

We associate with our peers because they are likeminded. We can relate to them on many levels. We have many ideologies and behaviors in common. It is important to have a strong peer network for accountability and encouragement.

We reach out to those in need because we have experience and ideas that we believe can help them. Our compassion to make a difference compels us to reach out to those who can benefit from our gifts. It is imperative to reach those in need for perspective and humility.

I really like the oft-used ministry-development rubric that we all should “Be a Barnabas. Train a Timothy. Pursue a Paul.”

Barnabas was an encourager. He worked alongside others including Paul and Timothy encouraging their success. He was a staunch advocate. When others doubt Paul and Timothy’s veracity, Barnabas believed in them. In addition to his physical presence, scripture (Acts 4:36) shows that he also put his money where his mouth is in selling his own possessions to support the work of the Early church.

Many of us understand and walk in a Barnabas anointing. Others achieve success because we advocate for them.

In my own life, I have many Barnabas relationships—other marriage and family educators, coaches, ministers, business leaders with whom I share ideas and dreams. I value these relationships.

Timothy represents another key type of relationship—traininee or mentee. Timothy, a younger and less experienced believer, was mentored by Paul (despite Paul’s initial reluctance). Paul’s extensive missiological experience served as a deep reservoir from which Timothy drew. Paul ultimately referred to Timothy as “a son in the faith”, connoting the deep bond that he felt as his mentor.

Again, many of us educate and mentor others—empowering them to be all that God has for them to be. I have many Timothy relationships in my life as well as I proactively reach out to train others on leadership and relationship well-being.

I believe that many of us effectively emulate Barnabas’ encouragement. Many of us train and assist the Timothy figures that God places in our path. While these relationships are vital, they can also be draining—pulling energy from us.

But, there is one type of relationship that seems too often missing—Paul relationships.

Are You on the Wrong Side of Being Right?

During one of our workshops when teaching about developing better communication skills , a young man once asked, “If I absolutely know I’m right, then why should I let my wife win an argument?” Though asked in a challenging tone, it is a great question to understand the fundamental nature of all our communication. In retrospect,  I wish I had better understood the answer during my argumentative younger years. What I simply did not know then is that there is a wrong side of  being right.

For much of my life, I’ve had a well-earned reputation for being argumentative. My sister recently reminded me of this—as if I needed reminding. Sometimes, the arguments were playful and just intended to incite banter. Other times they were  emotion-laden attempts to change someone’s mind or behavior.  It didn’t matter if the topic was sports, politics, or religion, my agenda was to win. Honestly, I’ve always been good at it. So, I went all in with my best articulation of facts, opinions, experiences, and the like—all in an effort to debunk the other’s point of view. For me, it felt like a badge of honor—mostly because it made me feel smart and commanding of respect from others. Best argument wins, right?

Vince Lombardi famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing”.

Boy, Mr. Lombardi and I are dead wrong–at least as it pertains to relational matters.

But, it wasn’t until years after I became a husband that I began to realize just how wrong I was.

How to Communicate Everything Better

When working with couple, parents, families, or leaders there is one concern that is voiced far above any other. That is communication. What you hear is the well known line from the classic movie Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman, “what we have hear is a failure to communicate”.  Communication failure indeed. There is a simple rubric to learn how to communicate everything better.