Influence by the Numbers

Influence – “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others.” – Random House Dictionary

Jeremy Lin, Hillary Clinton, Warren Buffet, Adele, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Tim Tebow, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Stephen Colbert; what do these people share in common? These individuals are on the Time magazine list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2012.

Chosen in the categories of breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders, and icons, Time has given us their annual list of whom they consider to be the most influential people in the world. It’s quite an impressive list. While many of the names are recognizable, would you however, know why Wang Yang, Andrew Lo, or Dulce Matuz was chosen? Yes, they are noteworthy, and each has a compelling reason why they belong on the list.

Napoleon Hill said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Leadership is about influence. And understanding the power of influence is all the more important as you begin to make your mark in your surroundings. Here are three insights about influence and how to keep it real.

The practice. Each of the persons chosen by Time shares a common trait; they have excelled in their chosen professions. They’ve worked hard, overcome the odds, and toiled in obscurity long before the notoriety they now bask in. Their influence was carved out of a passion for a sport, a desire for political reform, a need to cure a disease, to entertain the masses, or to raise awareness for human rights.

The practice of influence is simply your passions on display. Mia Hamm said, “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.” She’s right. The practice of influence is born out of conviction and passion; it’s the secret to the measure of your influence. If your passions are not known to you they won’t be known by others. When your passions are practiced your influence will take care of itself.

The recognition. Your name may not be mentioned on the cover of Time, but as your influence grows as a leader so too does your recognition. A smart leader understands that recognition and responsibility go hand in hand. So before you begin to crave the recognition be sure that that your heart is in the right place.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” That is sound advice for any leader. Recognition as a leader is a blessing, not a right. Use it wisely.

The reward. The reward of influence is found in the good that it produces. To be sure, not all influence is good. And some have used their influence for less than honorable outcomes. But the reward of influence can be found in the contributions of lifting up causes greater than self, raising awareness to the plights of the less fortunate, and simply making the world a better place in which to live.

What will be the measure of your leadership? What will be the reward or satisfaction that comes from it? To what end will you use the influence that you have to enrich the lives of those around you? Ella Baker said, “Give light and people will find the way.” And that is what leaders with influence are all about –giving light.

Your influence may not land you on the front cover of Time, but it is in no way less significant. The practice, recognition, and reward come from knowing that you lived with purpose and your influence made a difference.


© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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