With only 45 minutes to cover a ton of material, the challenge is not what to put in, but what to leave out. That’s a wonderfully clarifying experience. It has reminded me that building our Influence is about so much more than thinking, creating, communicating and plucking up the courage to put ourselves out there.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely be covering all of these. But they’re not the starting point. For that we have to go deeper. It all starts with Self-Leadership.
Self Leadership is the DNA for your success as an Influencer
We live in a VUCA world - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. It’s a world with few rules - and, as soon as we think we’ve spotted one, everything changes. This is the agile world, the gig economy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Imagination Age. Navigating it is tough. There are few stars to steer by. In a sense, we are all pathfinders, making our own way. That’s why we have to develop self-leadership.
Let’s break that down
1. Decide to be a leader - wherever you are.
Leadership is in crisis
. That’s what creates both the need and opportunity for Influencers to step up
. In my work with both organisations and individuals, I am struck by how few people think of themselves as leaders. It’s easier to muddle along in the herd or to hide in ‘management’. That’s not to knock anyone. It’s just that Influencers need to lead - to lead thought, lead energy, lead the debate or lead the resistance (“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only Hope”).
You must make a conscious decision to see yourself as a leader. It has nothing to do with a formal position and it’s definitely NOT about ego or power. It’s about taking the initiative, naming the real problems and showing the way. It’s active, not passive.
2. It starts with Self
Many of you reading this will work outside of a formal organisation. There’s no one to tell you what to do and your direct reports are likely to eat Whiskas. You probably don’t feel like a leader, but you are and you need to step up. You have to lead you.
Even within an organisation, chances are there will be no one insisting that you do what’s needed to stand out as an Influencer. One of my pet frustrations is observing the unwillingness of organisations to hold their ‘leaders’ to account. Creating content, writing thought pieces like this, standing on a stage or facilitating a client event are all easily-avoided under the catch-all excuse of “too busy”. Worse still I see senior leaders stand in front of a microphone like nervous children and apologise that they are “no good at public speaking”. In a VUCA world, that’s inexcusable. Do the work to fix it!
Building your Influence takes persistence
The hardest parts of becoming a successful and fulfilled influencer are not surmounting hurdles like a fear of public speaking or mastering social media. They are much more likely to be around building the stamina to publish content consistently - every f’kin week - even when you don't feel like it and your car has just died. Or handling the rejection of your ideas, or learning that a project you have been working on for 6 months has just fallen over because there is a new CEO. It is often a lonely road and you will be often wrestling with the imposter syndrome of “not good enough.”
That’s when your self-leadership kicks in. It’s about building the work ethic and resilience to complement your vision and passion. It’s the perspiration to make your inspiration become a reality.
It’s your choice
If all this sounds a bit tough, you’re right. If this stuff was easy everyone would be doing it. Most don't try and many that do give up way too soon. That’s a shame, because they miss our on the prize of designing the life they want. They lack the vision or perhaps the courage. They certainly lack that critical self-leadership to have a go and keep on going when the going gets tough.
Seth Godin single handedly defined what it means to be an influencer in the marketing space. In his brilliant book, ‘What to do when it’s your turn’
he makes the point that how we respond to the challenges of today is up to us.
“You don’t need a permit or a blessing or any sort or permission to decide to take your turn. You only have to open your eyes and look. And then choose”.
What are you choosing?