Discovering the Influences of the Influencers
You are never the only leader in an organization. Even if you are the founder, eventually others will have an impact on the future of the business, charity, homeowner association, or church.
If you doubt this fact, just ask George Zimmer, the founder of The Men’s Warehouse. He began the company, led it through decades of growth, and starred in all of its commercials. If you don’t remember his name, then you’ll likely remember his trademark tagline: “You’re going to like the way you look – I guarantee it.” After some period of stress among the board of directors, Zimmer issued an ultimatum for them to follow his lead. Instead, they chose to fire him. It was a clear lesson to other senior leaders: You are not the only one with influence in your organization.
As leaders in the church, we should seek to understand who else is leading around, with, or even against us. But it is not enough to simply know who they are. If you want to influence the influencers then you need to know what is influencing the influencers already.
Here are five ideas about discovering what is influencing the influencers in your church.
1. Know their history. If you have never done a private overview of the church’s history, start today. Read through the various versions of the constitution, bylaws, and minutes of business meetings. Also, just visit with long-term members to better understand what has happened in the years and decades before you arrived. It is likely that you will begin to see patterns develop in behavior.
2. Know their terminology. Every group of people begins to develop their own vernacular. It is a combination of inside jokes, slights toward people no longer around, and phrases that refer to hidden meanings. Listen closely to what is being said behind the actual words.
3. Books that shape their thinking. Right now, the elders at my church are reading a book together to spur on conversation about their service. Future leaders will need to know what book that it so they can understand why things work the way they do. Talk to the influencers in your church about the books (and other materials) that have guided their ideas about leadership.
4. Leaders they emulate. When you survey the history of the church, ask about individual leaders that have had the greatest impact on the influencers in your church. Be mindful that those who have influenced the influencers may not have held official positions. Oftentimes, the leaders we wish to be like are those who simply do so naturally.
5. Influencers are well connected and constantly learning. Sometimes this is on purpose. Sometimes it is not. However, leaders are constantly being shaped in some manner. Tune in and learn how they connect with one another, learn from one another, and who is guiding their thinking.