the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself: the influence of television violence | I was still under the influence of my parents | their friends are having a bad influence on them.
• the power to shape policy or ensure favorable treatment from someone, esp. through status, contacts, or wealth: the institute has considerable influence with teachers.
• a person or thing with such a capacity or power: Frank was a good influence on her.
• Physics, archaic electrical or magnetic induction.
verb [ with obj. ]
have an influence on: social forces influencing criminal behavior.
under the influence informal affected by alcoholic drink; drunk: he was charged with driving under the influence.
As leaders it’s important not to mistake importance with influence. Job titles, positions, or even fame can lead us to believe that we have influence over the people we are leading. But looking closer at our lives and the lives of people following us will indicate that, although we have gained importance in their lives, we have failed to gain influence in them.
This isn’t to say that both influence and importance are not important. But that is to say that there is a distinction that shouldn’t be overlooked. The idea of being influential, I understand, isn’t new. The novelty is when leaders choose to become influential through their personal relationships with others and not through the importance of their titles. The importance in leadership style is great. Leaders who focus on importance often have to resort to control in order to achieve change. The pursuit of influence, however, allows individuals to follow the leader willingly and independent of the pressure of assumed titles or authority.
A more egalitarian view of leadership might be necessary to allow that change in church. But when we look at how Jesus led we can likely agree that he chose influence in the lives of people he was in relationships with over importance in the established system of governance. That is why I believe that as we re-focus our churches to re-emphasize discipleship we will likely have to give up our ideas of being important and instead invest in being influential.