Leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less. 

Books have been written on the subject. This post is nothing by comparison to a book. But what I’m going to say here is vital and true. If you want to lead, you must have influence. There is no leadership without influence.

Here’s a case to support what I just wrote. Dan Reeves made his reputation as head of the Denver Broncos. He earned three Super Bowl appearances, and received NFL Coach of the Year honors three times.

With all that, there were disagreements between Reeves and quarterback John Elway and assistant coach Mike Shanahan. Some say Elway and Shanahan worked on their own offensive game plan, and ignored Reeves’s wishes.

Somehow, Shanahan developed greater influence with Elway. It didn’t matter that Reeves held the title and position of head coach.

In 1995 Shanahan became head coach of the Broncos. He became in title what he probably was already in terms of influence with certain players — their leader. In 1998 he took the Broncos and QB John Elway to their first Super Bowl victory.

Leadership is all about influence.

“It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.”

Management vs. Leadership

What is the difference? Aren’t managing and leadership the same? No. The main difference between the two is this:

Leadership is about  influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and processes. 

The best way to test whether a person can lead rather than just manage is to ask him to create positive change. Managers can maintain direction, but they can’t change it. To move people in a new direction, you need influence.

Read this section again and again until is sinks in. This is crucial to your understanding.

Sometimes the best manager is like the little boy with the big dog, waiting to see where the dog wants to go so he can take him there.

Being the little boy does not appeal to me in any way.

The Law of Influence

If you don’t have influence, you won’t be able to lead others. You make things happen because you have influence, and leadership is influence.

True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It can only be earned.

The Law of the Lid

You will only go as far as the limitations on your leadership. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise the lid — one way or another.  To change the effectiveness of a team, lift up the leadership of the coach.

21 Leadership Laws

  1. THE LAW OF THE LID — Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.
  2. THE LAW OF INFLUENCE — The true measure of leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.
  3. THE LAW OF PROCESS — Leadership develops daily, not in a day.
  4. THE LAW OF NAVIGATION — Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.
  5. THE LAW OF E.F. HUTTON — When the real leader speaks, people listen.
  6. THE LAW OF SOLID GROUND — Trust is the foundation of leadership.
  7. THE LAW OF RESPECT — People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.
  8. THE LAW OF INTUITION — Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.
  9. THE LAW OF MAGNETISM — Who you are is who you attract.
  10. THE LAW OF CONNECTION — Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.
  11. THE LAW OF THE INNER CIRCLE — A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.
  12. THE LAW OF EMPOWERMENT — Only secure leaders give power to others.
  13. THE LAW OF REPRODUCTION — It takes a leader to raise up a leader.
  14. THE LAW OF BUY-IN — People buy into the leader, then the vision.
  15. THE LAW OF VICTORY — Leaders find a way for the team to win.
  16. THE LAW OF THE BIG MO — Momentum is a leader’s best friend.
  17. THE LAW OF PRIORITIES — Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
  18. THE LAW OF SACRIFICE — A leader must give up to go up.
  19. THE LAW OF TIMING — When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.
  20. THE LAW OF EXPLOSIVE GROWTH — To add growth, lead followers. To multiply, lead leaders.
  21. THE LAW OF LEGACY — A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.

These laws are from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I agree with most of them, but have a little disagreement with 18. Still thinking about that one, because sacrifice is a mindset and is thought of differently by different people. I can see his point, I’m just not totally buying it right this minute. Partial buy-in, yes.

On Proactivity

The Proactive Reactive



It’s another word that’s tossed about. Be proactive. Don’t be reactive. What does this mean?

In my experience acting on something immediately is far better than waiting for that thing to grow to a point where it’s difficult to take care of. Pull a weed when it’s very small, and it takes a moment and requires very little energy. Wait for it to take root and spread, and you’ve got another issue.

Events in life are like that. They may start small. Call them “untoward events” or “negative events” if you want. Whatever the name, being proactive means taking steps NOW to make sure the weeds don’t start. Or the negative comments don’t start.

I realize there will always be those who find pleasure in making others miserable. I know people who aren’t happy unless they’re grumpy. I don’t know if Grumpy ever smiled, but I’m sure Sleepy and Dopey did.

If you don’t want the sleep or dopey label, and prefer not to spend you time putting out fires, then get on with thinking about these things:

What things around you need organizing? Start organizing them.

What people around you need attention? Give them attention.

What policies  need reviewing? Start reviewing.

What processes need improving or evaluating? Start looking at them.

By taking action NOW, you are smoothing the road for tomorrow. You contribute to the creation of a positive environment. These thoughts can be applied anywhere, not just in the workplace. Home is a good place to start, because there is usually a lot less stress there, and the ramifications or impact of failure to implement is less.

When people depend on you for leadership, the game changes. It is now up to you to speak up, rise up, and gain a higher level of perspective. If you haven’t started already, it’s not too late. Take the first step, and create the snowball effect. It’s often hardest to overcome inertia, but when you spread the workload through delegation, it makes life easier.

You are delegating, right? Excellent. Now get cracking and make things happen!


Meetings: The Four P’s

Meet regularly with direct reports. Use the Four P framework to organize your conversations:

People, process, projects, profit.

People:  Have them update you on anyone they may be responsible for. Ask who the promising leaders are and how they’re being developed for their next roles. Find out who’s not performing and what’s being done to get them on track.

Processes:  Have them explain what process changes they are working on to improve their performance and the customer experience.

Projects:  Have them describe the initiatives they’re working on to upgrade the services they’re responsible for.

Profit:  Have them give you status reports on their financial responsibilities. This includes their attention to time management, overtime and cost controls. Time is money.

What Is Leadership?

How do you define leadership?

Ask 33 different people, and you’ll get 33 different responses to the question, “What is leadership?” So here are exactly 33 different responses to the question. If you read them all, you’ll see a common thread runs through the lot.

“Leadership is the ability to not only understand and utilize your innate talents, but to also effectively leverage the natural strengths of your team to accomplish the mission. There is no one-size fits all approach, answer key or formula to leadership. Leadership should be the humble, authentic expression of your unique personality in pursuit of bettering whatever environment you are in.” – Katie Christy, founder, Activate Your Talent

“Leadership is about having a selfless heart and always being willing to reach out and lend a helping hand.” – Bob Reina, CEO and founder, Talk Fusion

“To me, leadership is about playing to strengths and addressing weaknesses in the most productive and efficient way possible. It’s about knowing your team and yourself, and doing your best job to set both up for success.” – Sammy Cohen, co-founder, Neon Bandits

“Leadership is the ability to see a problem and be the solution. So many people are willing to talk about problems or can even empathize, but not many can see the problem or challenge and rise to it. It takes a leader to truly see a problem as a challenge and want to drive toward it. That is what causes people to want to follow, and a true leader has a following.” – Andrea Walker-Leidy, owner, Walker Publicity Consulting

“Leadership is having the humility to put your employees first so that the company can grow. Leaders should invest time [in] employees and make sure that they feel comfortable in the workplace. This increases the functionality and efficiency of the company.” – Matthew Adams, director of communications, Tru-Colour Bandages

“A leader is someone [who] leads by example and has the integrity to do the right thing even when it is not popular. A good leader has positive influence over others, inspiring them to become a better person and example for others to model their life against, as well.” – Mark Little, founder and president, Diversified Funding

“Leadership is serving the people that work for you by giving them the tools they need to succeed. Your workers should be looking forward to the customer and not backwards, over their shoulders, at you. It also means genuine praise for what goes well and leading by taking responsibility early and immediately if things go bad.” – Jordan French, president, BNB Shield

“Leadership is the ability to unapologetically express and see out your business vision. Leadership is using your intuition to guide you, and inspiring your team to come along for the ride. Leadership is listening to that ‘inner voice,’ even when it is risky, scary, and challenging the status quo.” – Makenzie Marzluff, founder, Delighted By

“Leadership is the ability to help people achieve things they don’t think are possible. Leaders are coaches with a passion for developing people, not players; they get satisfaction from achieving objectives through others. Leaders inspire people through a shared vision and create an environment where people feel valued and fulfilled.” – Randy Stocklin, co-founder and CEO,

“Leadership is having a vision, sharing that vision and inspiring others to support your vision while creating their own.” – Mindy Gibbins-Klein, founder, REAL Thought Leaders [See Related Story: What Is Leadership?]

“Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.” – Lisa Cash Hanson, CEO, Snuggwugg

“Effective leadership is providing the vision and motivation to a team so they work together toward the same goal, and then understanding the talents and temperaments of each individual and effectively motivating each person to contribute individually their best toward achieving the group goal.” – Stan Kimer, president, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer

“Leadership is the art of serving others by equipping them with training, tools and people as well as your time, energy and emotional intelligence so that they can realize their full potential, both personally and professionally.” – Daphne Mallory, family business expert, The Daphne Mallory Company

“Leadership is being bold enough to have vision and humble enough to recognize achieving it will take the efforts of many people — people who are most fulfilled when they share their gifts and talents, rather than just work. Leaders create that culture, serve that greater good and let others soar.” – Kathy Heasley, founder and president, Heasley & Partners

“My perspective of a leader is an individual who knows the ins and outs about the business so they can empathize with followers. In addition to being a positive influence on the people they are leading, leadership is about setting the tone, motivating, inspiring, thinking big, and never [giving] up when others feel like quitting.” – Alexis Davis, founder and designer, Hoo-Kong by Alexis Davis

“A true leader is secure in creating a framework that encourages others to tap into their own skills and ideas and freely contribute to the whole of the project or company.” – Judy Crockett, owner, Interactive Marketing & Communication

“In my experience, leadership is about three things: To listen, to inspire and to empower. Over the years, I’ve tried to learn to do a much better job listening actively, making sure I really understand the other person’s point of view, learning from them, and using that basis of trust and collaboration to inspire and empower. [It’s about] setting the bar high, and then giving them the time and resources to do great work.” – Larry Garfield, president, Garfield Group

“I define leadership as knowing when to be in front to lead and guide a team during the journey, and when to step back and let others take the lead. Much like an athlete who knows exactly what position to move to on the field at any given time, a true business leader understands the delicate balance of how to help others become leaders, fuel career ambitions, then give them the chance to shine.” – Dan Schoenbaum, CEO, Redbooth

“Too many people view management as leadership. It’s not. Leadership comes from influence, and influence can come from anyone at any level and in any role. Being open and authentic, helping to lift others up and working toward a common mission, build influence. True leadership comes when those around you are influenced by your life in a positive way.” – Kurt Uhlir, CEO and co-founder, Sideqik

“Leadership is when someone is willing to stand up front to be either the target or the hero to take responsibility for the success or failure of a given goal. Not everyone has the guts to be a leader and [take] personal risks that they may encounter.” – Darlene Tenes, founder and designer, CasaQ

“Leadership is stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risk to create reward.” – Katie Easley, founder, Kate Ryan Design

“A leader is someone who has the clarity to know the right things to do, the confidence to know when she’s wrong and the courage to do the right things even when they’re hard.” – Darcy Eikenberg, founder,

“Leadership is the behavior that brings the future to the present, by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help you make it a reality.” – Matt Barney, founder and CEO, LeaderAmp

“Leadership is caring more about the cause and the people in your company than about your own personal pain and success. It is about having a greater vision of where your company is trying to go while leaving the path open for others to grow into leaders.” – Jarie Bolander, COO and co-founder, Lab Sensor Solutions

“A leader is a person who takes you where you will not go alone.” – Susan Ascher, CEO, founder and president,

“Leadership means using one’s influence to help guide others in successfully achieving a goal without desire for recognition, without worry of what others think and with awareness of issues, internal or external, that might change the results sought.” – Marie Hansen, dean of the college of business, Husson University

“Leadership is not about finding ways to lead better or to motivate your team. It’s about being there from the beginning as equals and becoming a mentor when they need you to be one.” –Michael Womack, co-founder,

“Leadership styles differ, but at the core, good leaders make the people they are leading accomplish more than they otherwise would. The most effective leaders do this not through fear, intimidation or title, but rather by building consensus around a common goal.” – Tom Madine, CEO and president, Worldwide Express

“Leadership is inspiring others to pursue your vision within the parameters you set, to the extent that it becomes a shared effort, a shared vision and a shared success.” – Steve Zeitchik, CEO of Focal Point Strategies

“For me, leadership is an act — a decision to take a stand, or step, in order to encourage, inspire or motivate others to move with you. What’s more, the most effective leaders do not rely on their title, or positional power, to lead. Rather, their ability to use their own personal power combined with their use of strategic influence are what make them effective.” – Kendra Coleman, consultant, Sheppard Moscow

“Leadership is the ability to take an average team of individuals and transform them into superstars. The best leader is the one who inspires his workers to achieve greatness each and every day.” – Jonas Falk, CEO, OrganicLife

“Leadership is influencing others by your character, humility and example. It is recognizable when others follow in word and deed without obligation or coercion.” – Sonny Newman, president, EE Technologies

“Leadership is the collective action of everyone you influence. Your behavior — your actions and your words — determines how you influence. Our job as leaders is to energize whatever marshals action within others.” – David Casullo, president, Bates Communications

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