“If you think you are leading, but no one is following,” says John Maxwell, “then you are only taking a walk.”
Leadership is not positional, in other words — at least not merely. Nor can it be reduced to professional accomplishments, although it certainly includes those. Rather, leadership is inherently and intensely personal.
Leaders influence followers.
The crucial leadership question is how. How do leaders influence their followers? What are the best practices for doing so?
In Impact, Scott Wilson identifies two key factors that make for especially effective leaders. They are respect and relationship.
“Respect and relationship are the two wings of a leadership airplane,” he writes. “Without both of them, we crash and burn.”
Think of the importance of these two factors at the present time.
One of the key findings of the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer is “widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.” It’s easy to put politicians and media influencers in the crosshairs of criticism, but according to Edelman, “none of the societal leaders we track — government leaders, CEOs, journalists and even religious leaders — are trusted to do what is right.”
And then there is relationship. The May 2021 American Perspectives Survey reports that “the role of friends in American social life is experiencing a pronounced decline.” Some of this is due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, but much of it is due to trends decades in the making.
In a distrustful, lonely culture, leaders must earn respect and build relationships. How to do those two things well is what Impact is all about. Wilson identifies 10 practices — five for respect, five for relationship — that will improve your leadership if you do them consistently and well.
None of these practices is especially recondite or difficult. Indeed, readers might think to themselves, Well, of course we should do these things! They’re obvious! The problem is that many of us fail to do the obvious things consistently … or well. That’s a big part of what separates effective leadership from the run-of-the-mill variety.
Earning trust and building respect don’t solve every leadership problem. Some problems are organizational or technical in nature. Many are very complex. What respect and relationship do when combined is create an environment in which those other problems can be solved.
I’ve been writing about leaders and leadership somewhat abstractly, since the lessons of Impact apply to a variety of organizations. Scott Wilson is a well-known and respected minister, however, and he draws many of the book’s examples from his decades-long lead pastorship of Oaks Church in Red Oak, Texas, which he now serves as global pastor. His advice has the greatest salience for his fellow ministers.
Wilson believes that “everyone can raise the level of their influence.” That doesn’t mean every pastor will eventually lead a megachurch. It does mean, however, that all of us can extend our circle of influence. By earning trust and building relationships, we’ll find that people want to walk with us because they like where we’re headed.
Scott Wilson, Impact: Releasing the Power of Influence (Atlanta: Avail, 2021).
P.S. If you liked my recommendation of this book, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.
P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com by permission.