Equipped Without Influence

The word origin for Bachelor comes from the days of Knights, a knight bachelor. A knight too young or poor to gather vassals under his own banner. A knight bachelor was the lowest rank of a knighted man; one who fought under another knight’s banner until he could prove his prowess and receive his own banner. A knight equipped, but without influence.

The term bachelor was also used for a junior member of a guild, low-level ecclesiastics, or a young monk. An individual that was equipped with knowledge yet had no influence over his peers. Influence was obtained only through gained experience. The term was then adopted for use in education during the 13th century by the University of Paris for those who had completed their courses and were entitled to proceed to the higher degrees.

Being equipped with all the right tools but showing little to no skill at influencing is a documented gap with leadership today. Given that leaders struggle to even define leadership, it’s no surprise that their ability to influence strategically critical behavior change is mediocre at best. When asked what constitutes leadership, leaders often give vague references to energizing, visioning, crafting strategy; but almost no reference to the central task of influencing. It isn’t just about making decisions; it’s about getting people aligned to execute the decisions and behave in ways that improve results. This means influence.

“Leadership is intentional influence.” – Tim Tassopoulos, COO Chick-fil-A

Intentional influence is a deliberate and purposeful ability to affect change and make a difference. Whether that is a leader of a movement like Martin Luther King, Jr. or just an everyday person that chooses to lead in the moment like Rosa Parks -both are just as critical. These influencers were equipped with a personal resolve for justice.

Many leaders think influence consists of charismatic and inspirational verbal persuasion that often requires a PowerPoint presentation. Anyone who’s ever tried to persuade a smoker into quitting knows there’s a lot more to behavior change than words, written or spoken.

Advertisers are struggling to reach potential buyers in today’s evolving world. I saw a study on companies using social media platforms – a tremendous tool to reach their marketplace. However, only 5% of Americans say those platforms have a great deal of influence on their purchasing decisions; worse still, 62% say social media has no influence at all. Businesses think that by equipping themselves with social media platforms they can influence the way consumers think. The toughest lesson for businesses is to learn how to use social media channels the way consumers want to use them, not the way the business wants to use them.

I recently read an article about a very talented high school volleyball coach in Texas who resigned after just one year at the high school where she was perhaps the best player in the school’s history. This coach was an All-American volleyball player at a major Division 1 college and had taken a ‘lesser’ high school program to the state title game a few years ago. A promising young coach, well equipped. However, she had no influence due to the environment of parental interference (they held the influence) and lack of support from administration. This situation is even more unfortunate as a talented young coach’s influence, like a teacher’s, never stops.

We all crave the ability to influence others. If only we could get them to change, our lives would be much better. We lament how the world is falling apart because other people won’t change their ways; others have dangerous political or religious views, others are polluting the planet. We have that thought process all backwards. Some of the greatest people I know influence themselves. Leadership is one-part Influence and two-parts responsibility, us and those we lead.

Chronic health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes will continue to drive up health-care costs. Society delights at the discovery of a new pill that might benefit 10 percent to 20 percent more patients than a placebo does. Yet, we’ve known for years that as much as half of what determines our health status lies in our own hands. Proper diet and exercise can have two to three times the effect of a pill with better side effects. We’ll never improve our level of personal well-being—and subsequently reduce health-care costs—until we gain greater competence at influencing our own choices.

Our destiny is not contingent on creating new cures or even technology, but on influencing new personal habits. Habits that can create the health, wealth, happiness, and relationships we all want most. That leadership begins with us and we are equipped.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he used a familiar farming illustration, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6). More than one person has had an influence on our lives. There’s been the compounding influences of parents, coaches, teachers, pastors, mentors, family and friends – among those who planted, cultivated, and irrigated.

We as Christians are equipped with the knowledge from the scriptures and church teachings. Do we live by Christ’s example? Do we use our influence? Again, words alone will not do the trick; nor will glitzy presentations from the pulpit. Have we done our part to plant and water others? Let us not be ‘Bachelors’ but prove our prowess and influence those around us. We can all be like Rosa Parks or Apollos.

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