Every year my agency participates in a conference called the Global Leadership Summit. One of the themes this past year was “influence,” which was defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something.”
This concept of influence really resonated with me. The summit speakers said anyone who has influence is a leader. While many of us may not consider ourselves as leaders in the traditional sense, we all have influence. And the argument can be made that as a result of having influence, we are all leaders.
Skeptical? Hang with me. One day the NetVU executive board was discussing member engagement and why people choose to attend chapter meetings, our annual Accelerate conference or a webinar. It quickly became obvious that our members do these things because they are leaders — because they want to make themselves and their firms better. They are also influencers, because, whether they realize it or not, every time they share a best practice, a tip or a trick, they are influencing others.
Change for the Better
During the pandemic, we’ve each had a huge influence on the world around us: in our homes and communities, and with our employers. Sheltering in place, working from home, using technology in ways we’ve never used it before and caring for others has influenced our world. We’ve worked hard to flatten the curve, kept our operations moving and kept kids focused on schoolwork. We’ve even spread joy, happiness and laughter with others during virtual happy hours. It hasn’t always been easy. Many of us have probably wanted to cry a little, or rip out our rapidly growing hair to express frustration and anxiety. But throughout this period, we’ve all — directly or indirectly –had an enormous influence on the world by changing our behavior.
As a result of exercising this influence, each of us is a leader, and leaders make things happen.
Maybe you’re thinking: “That’s not me.” “I’ve never set an example for anyone.” “Nobody follows me.” “I’m terrified of speaking in public.” “I’m quiet in meetings.” “I don’t want to be the center of attention.” “I’m not a leader.”
I recently ran across a quote from Scott Adams, who created the comic strip Dilbert: “You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”
Even a Novice
I remember going to a first-time attendee session at my first NetVU Accelerate conference and seeing all these people who had so much passion and confidence. They were strong leaders and they had a ton of influence, and then there was little ol’ me, the millennial with two years of agency experience and no clue what anyone was talking about.
I took a notebook full of notes with a ton of ideas for things to change or implement. Some were very simple, while others were pretty comprehensive. And then I was on my way home from the conference and the reality hit me. I felt very alone and faced many challenges. I had a ton of work waiting for me at the office. I had taken notes about some things I wasn’t confident I knew much about. And there were many at my agency with much more experience. Sound familiar?
But I also had a network of people who had been in that same boat that were supporting me. I leaned on the friends I’d made at NetVU, and guess what happened? Our agency implemented a ton of changes that made our organization better. The experience made me better too. My professional network of friends helped me see the influence I could have on my agency, and it helped me become a stronger leader.
Take advantage of the influence you have.
You don’t have to be a manager or an agency principal to have influence. You don’t have to be the most senior staff member. You don’t have to be an extrovert. You just have to have the passion to make things better, and the courage to use your influence to do just that.
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