Leaders of Influence
Politics aside, we can all agree that we live in a time of economic uncertainty. This is a time when the need for influential leadership is paramount to organizational growth.
Organizational growth only comes from leading teams that get results.
Organizational growth only comes from leading teams that get results. Most organizations ebb and flow with economic highs and lows. We can track and study those statistics throughout the years and use that information to build a strategy. Numbers are important and economic trends tell a story, but over the past three years, nonprofit organizations have experienced not only financial loss due to economic conditions, but also a downturn in volunteerism alongside an increased demand for services.
In their 2023 Nonprofit Economic Trends report, Cerini & Associates predicts, among other things, a shortage of leadership in nonprofit organizations, and an increase in competition for donations due to declining government funding that kept many nonprofit organizations afloat since 2020.
Influence through Teaching Others
The news we hear can be discouraging and cause concern for our viability as nonprofits. However, as leaders of faith, we know where our help comes from. God is our provider. That means we do not need to panic in times of uncertainty. We do however need to look at our ultimate authority for the wisdom we need to navigate these times and be faithful to his Word.
In 2 Tim. 2:2, Paul tells Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB)
Even the great commission in Matt. 28:20 tells us in Jesus’ words: “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Our role as leaders is to teach others what we know.
Sustainability and Growth
At Aspire, we have found that one of the most common challenges and missed opportunities we face as faith leaders is in developing other leaders for sustainability and growth. It is easy to allow our long list of missional responsibilities, including allegiance to donors and the communities we serve, to cause us to fight the urgent and fail to grow our organization, our mission, our family, and ourselves. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. However, the failure to grow or sustain our ministry is on our shoulders and our shoulders alone.
Influence as a Leader of Authority
Will we choose to serve those on our team through leading by example and investing in their growth? At Aspire Leadership, we have worked in both the corporate sector and the nonprofit sector for more than 35 years. The success in both sectors is due to one thing – leadership development.
This is not the time for leaders of power, but rather leaders of authority.
In times of uncertainty, leadership development is the key to viability and sustainability. This is not the time for leaders of power, but rather leaders of authority. James Hunter defines authority as “the skill of getting people to willingly do your will, because of your personal influence.”
Building Influence: Four Key Concepts
So how do we build influence with our teams?
The concepts are simple, but the effort can be daunting. We have seen what an incredible impact a leader of influence, and a strong cohesive team, can have on the success of an organization. Leaders must shift to recognize their teams as their greatest asset, and to view team members’ growth as the key to viability and sustainability.
Here are four concepts you can implement to become a leader of influence whom others want to follow:
Empower Your Team
Everyone wants to belong to something bigger than themselves. The State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report by Gallup, Inc., reports: “Business Units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with miserable (actively disengaged) workers. Additionally, teams with thriving (engaged) workers see significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents; they also see higher customer loyalty.”
Thriving workers are part of the team. Their leaders have poured into them and have built a connection with them such that the worker is empowered to make decisions and do their job with pride. They know they are part of a team that works together, succeeds together, and celebrates together.
- Communicate the mission with expectations. (Create a strategic plan and work the plan.)
- Clarify roles and responsibilities. (Make sure team members know their value, and the part they play in the plan.)
- Define specific goals with deadlines. (Review as a team on a regular basis to remove obstacles and provide resources. Be mindful not to micromanage the team.)
- Most importantly, trust team members to make the best decisions. (Back them up when they fail.)
The statistics say organizations have 23% higher profit with engaged team members. I have personally seen the number even higher. Empowering your team is a win-win for all.
Lead by Example
As faith-based leaders, we understand that integrity and character are crucial. Our team members will look to us as role models. We must model the behaviors and values that we need and expect from our team. We build influence by letting our team members see us pursue personal growth by being curious, always learning, staying current with organizational trends, and remaining open to ideas and change. Let them see you succeed and fail.
- Be disciplined in curiosity, humility and empathy. (These three disciplines drive growth, build trust, and create connection.)
- Be committed to developing influential behaviors to propel you forward. (Connect with peers to maintain accountability for behavior change.)
- Encourage team members’ growth by offering leadership development and other personal and professional learning opportunities. (Seek to see their gifts, and understand their blind spots to set them up for success.)
Without trust, it is difficult to establish the open and honest communication necessary for a strong team dynamic. To build and maintain a culture of trust, it is our responsibility to be humble, transparent and authentic leaders in all our interactions with our team members.
- Be authentic and transparent. (Seek feedback, and be consistent in your messaging.
- Be vulnerable. (Accept responsibility for failures, while sharing lessons learned.)
- Exemplify a strong work ethic. (Don’t expect your team to work harder than you do.)
Delegation is vital if you desire to be a leader of influence.
- Work in their strengths. (Know your team’s strengths and position them in the right seat.)
- Develop your team. (Focus on bench strength by coaching your mid-level leaders.)
- Focus on high-level priorities. (Work on the team, not in the team.)
A Foundation for Growth
These four areas will begin the foundation for growth in your organization and create a results-oriented culture that not only meets but also exceeds your goals. The added benefit is the peace that comes from living a life of curiosity, humility and empathy that drives all you do, and not just in your professional life. Your friends and family will see the change and want to be a part of what you are doing. Influential leadership is contagious.
Influential leadership is contagious.
At Aspire the verse that encapsulates what we strive for is Psalm 78:72: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”
Your team’s personal and professional growth comes from your investment in your own leadership and then your investment, time and belief in them as an influential leader. Will you change the narrative of the last few years? The time for influential leadership is now!
Lauren Vanaman, CCNL, is the Executive Director of Aspire Leadership which features a leadership program that builds results oriented leaders who drive growth, build trust and create connection, all while creating a lasting culture of impact. Learn more about Aspire Leadership at www.aspire7872.com.
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