Competence Builds Influence

Posted by Jeff Iorg on

Leadership is usually defined, in some way, as influence. Demonstrating competence is one key to influencing others. The better you are at your role, the more likely others will defer to your expertise, trust your judgment, and cooperate with your decisions. Your competence is both real and a perception your followers hold. It can be increased in several ways. 

First, you increase competence by skillfully doing your job. Many things leaders do—public speaking, strategic planning, and personnel management for example—can be improved with study, coaching, and practice. Reading good books on leadership and continually shaping your thinking with best practices of other effective leaders is a simple step almost anyone can take. Seeking a mentor who can critique your work and make suggestions for improvement can also be helpful. As you learn more, and put new skills into practice, your followers’ confidence in your leadership will increase.

Second, you increase competence by making good decisions. When our new pastor came to our church in Oregon many years ago, he initiated several changes. In every case, he made wise decisions. He demonstrated good decision-making skills, thorough decision-making processes, and we all gained confidence in him because of the positive outcomes.

In his second year with us, he proposed a major building project. This was a strategic change for our church. Up until that time, we had a commitment not to build a permanent facility. We were intentionally portable as part of our strategic plans for our long-term future. Now, our younger pastor believed God was leading us to build.

We had a family discussion of his recommendations. My oldest son was surprised, given the church’s history, when I voiced my support of the building idea. When asked why, my answer was, “Our pastor has built a lot of credibility with me. Every decision, so far, has been good for the church. He deserves our support.” We had watched our pastor make a series of lesser decisions, all successfully. This enhanced our confidence in his competence to make this major decision.

Third, you increase competence by leading successfully. Every organization has success indicators. Some are hard facts—money, attendance, enrollment, meals served, students graduated, etc. Others are soft issues, but nonetheless real—like improved morale, deeper fellowship, or changed attitudes. When your organization is thriving, or at least improving, your leadership competence is strengthened. It is easier to initiate real change when you have a track record of successfully implementing other changes.

Increasing your competence, and your followers’ perception of your competence, takes time. Implementing best practices, making good decisions, and building a successful track record are all part of the process. You may feel competent, and you may even be competent, but demonstrating it so your followers perceive you as competent is part of the process of proving yourself as a leader.

You increase your influence incrementally by establishing a proven record of leadership competence.

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