When I was a child, an adult said to me, “You are a born leader.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but because it sounded important, I liked the idea. I knew I liked being in front and being in charge of things. I was extremely responsible, and I noticed that people often did what I asked them to do. I was 11 years old, and I thought I had leadership figured out.
As an adult, I unintentionally fell into several leadership roles. I did what I saw others do, but my leadership wasn’t particularly beneficial to the people I led. I did get results, but it wasn’t pretty. One day after a challenging encounter with a staff member, I decided there must be a better way.
I have always appreciated someone modeling the best way to do anything, so I looked for a successful leader who had the qualities I wanted. I was fortunate to find such a leader. He had a gentle way with people. He could redirect, hold them accountable, and help them move forward without crushing them while still accomplishing results. He helped me understand that leadership wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being in front or in charge or using people to reach my own goals. He was willing to mentor me, and though he was twenty-five years my senior, he told me he wanted to help me achieve my goals. He saw qualities in me that I had not seen in myself, and his influence totally changed the direction of my life. As a strong man of faith, he helped me see his model for leadership—Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the model who made all the difference.
I came to believe that leadership is influence—influence on the thinking, behavior or development of another person. Therefore, we are all leaders in our life roles as a parent, grandparent, or community leader, as well as in organizational settings.
I was satisfied with my definition and my understanding of leadership, but then I heard the phrase “the stewardship of influence.” I knew I needed to add additional learning to my thoughts about leadership. As a child, I had been taught to be a good steward of money, possessions, and talents, but no one mentioned influence. Since I identified leadership as influence, the importance of being a steward of my influence grabbed my thinking.
Understanding that a “steward” is simply the manager of an owner’s assets, I began to think about my influence in relationship to my belief that we are all created by God for a purpose, that God loves everyone and has a great plan. I realized for the first time that I am a steward of the people who are under my care, whether in my family or on my team, to help them accomplish everything God has called them to do and be. I began to define stewardship as everything we do after we say, “I believe” and “stewardship of influence” as “the choice to take responsibility for our influence to affect and impact others.”
I have met some leaders who have consciously chosen to link leadership and stewardship in all the ways they have influence. I think of Michael Cardone, Jr. and his great company, Cardone Industries, an auto parts remanufacturer out of Philadelphia. Cardone’s values are 1) Honor God in all we do, 2) Help people develop, 3) Pursue excellence, and 4) Grow profitably.
In an interview with Michael, I asked how he could integrate these strong values into a multi-cultural, 6,000-plus member workforce. Michael said:
“They can’t argue with love. When people know you care about them and want to help them develop, they work at a different level, and everything changes.” Michael Cardone, Jr.
Michael and his father established the company with a strong sense of impacting the lives of their employees and the lives of their customers. Michael has made a choice to steward everything he has been given, including his tremendous influence on so many.
S. Truett Cathy was another leader who chose to be a steward of his influence. Truett chose the responsibility to impact others every day. Not only did he impact the people who worked at Chick-fil-A in a positive way, but countless numbers of others who came into their restaurants, and the thousands who were affected by his generosity. Truett Cathy’s legacy continues to be modeled and lived out through his family and in the leadership of his son, Dan Cathy, who now serves as Chairman, President and CEO of Chick-fil-A.
The choice to be a steward of influence can be found in centuries old writings. In Psalm 72, Solomon asked for influence. He was the wealthiest, wisest, and most powerful person at that time, and he was asking for more influence. At first it seems self-serving, until we read why. King Solomon wanted to help the oppressed, care for the poor, and defend the defenseless. He literally wanted influence so that he could provide influence for those who had none. King Solomon wanted to use his influence to impact people’s lives.
In the book of Nehemiah, we find the story of a cupbearer to the King. Nehemiah heard that his nation was in disrepair, and his countrymen needed help. Nehemiah chose to use all of his influence to help rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, protect his country, and save the lives of his people. He could have stayed in the castle with the King, but he chose to take responsibility and use his influence to impact other people. His choice changed the life of a nation and all of history.
Throughout history there have been many leaders who have been incredible stewards of all they have been given. Their impact has been enormous. We have that same opportunity. How will you use your influence today?
Phyllis Hennecy Hendry serves as the inaugural President and CEO of Lead Like Jesus. Under her capable leadership, Lead Like Jesus has had a global impact. Phyllis has traveled across the United States and various parts of the world to speak and teach the message of Lead Like Jesus. She is a dynamic communicator who gets to the heart of her audiences with messages that come straight from hers. Her messages of truth are clear, personal, filled with stories, and life-changing. She often serves as a keynote and plenary speaker and delights in each opportunity to share the impact of the Lead Like Jesus message in the home, church, and marketplace.
For More Information about Lead Like Jesus or to bring Phyllis Hendry to your organization as a speaker, visit www.LeadLikeJesus.com or call 800.383.6890.