The Secret to Becoming an Effective Leader

After taking the last year off from my writing, I’m back! I am going to commit to writing at least one new article a month sharing some of the most important lessons I am learning on my journey!

One of the things I enjoyed this past year was observing the attributes of men and women who are admired leaders—at home, in the work place, and in the community. I have also watched the wannabe leaders and have seen quite a contrast between the two groups.

John C. Maxwell, arguably the No. 1 leadership trainer in the United States, defines leadership in one word: Influence. Ten years ago when I first heard him share his definition of leadership, I questioned whether a topic as broad, significant, and important as leadership could be defined by one word.

With the passing of years, I have come to believe that Maxwell was exactly right. Leadership is all about influence—the capacity to be a compelling force to produce effects on the actions, behavior, or opinions of others, usually in intangible or indirect ways. When you have influence, doors open, people listen, and life’s winds blow at your back.

Assuming that’s true, how do you gain influence? The answer is also one word: Respect. When people respect you, you have influence. When people don’t respect you, you don’t have influence.

Value of Respect

In your personal life, doing the little things to earn people’s respect affects how your family, friends, and folks in the community perceive you. Do people listen closely to what you say, or do they immediately discount it? Are you included in social events or excluded? When you call, is the phone answered or ignored?

In the workplace, being a person who is respected is the single most important element in advancing your career. It impacts everything from how people in the organization view you personally to the quality of work produced by your team.

In his book 360°Leader, John C. Maxwell points out that leadership is not just leading those who are subordinate to you; it’s leading everyone around you.

This includes those senior to you, your co-workers in other departments, and those who work under your direction. When people respect you, regardless of where they serve within an organization, you will have influence with them.

Power of Influence

It’s critical to recognize that becoming a respected person is not about doing one or two sizeable jobs exceptionally well or becoming a top producer within your company. It’s about becoming a person who is respected for the way you manage your life and relate to people. Respect is something you earn as a result of your actions and attitude. It comes by making the right decisions consistently, over a period of time.

Here’s a way to get an idea of the level of influence you likely have with people. What would your family, friends and co-workers say if they were asked the following questions? (Insert your name in the spaces)

  • Does ________show respect to others at all times?
  • Is ________ someone who is intentional about returning calls, emails and text messages in a timely manner?
  • Does ________ value people’s time by making it a point of always trying to be on time for his/her appointments.
  • How does ________ handle himself/herself when under pressure?
  • Is ________someone you view as financially responsible?
  • Does ________ do what he/she says he/she is going to do?
  • Does ________show a genuine interest in what people are saying and seldom interrupts?
  • Has there ever been a time when you questioned _______ integrity?
  • Does ________ exercise, eat right, and take care of his/her health?

These characteristics and the hundreds of little things I’ve highlighted in my previous 200 blog articles as well as in my book play a major role in the way you are branded in the minds of people who know you.

Don’t ever allow yourself to think something doesn’t matter! You can build a great brand for yourself over 10 years and then destroy it in one minute thinking something doesn’t matter!

To become the kind of person that others look up to with approval, appreciation and admiration, you need to be intentional about doing the things—both big and little—that will positively influence how people perceive you.

Life is largely about relationships. When you make decisions that cause people to grow in their respect for you, you will develop deeper, more rewarding, longer lasting relationships. As a result, you will be happier, you will feel better about yourself and your life will become more fulfilling!

The secret to becoming an influential leader is to be intentional about doing the little things that will cause people’s respect for you to grow!

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 31 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #19 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

Related Posts:

Our Lives are a Mirror Image of the Little Decisions we Make
12 Attributes, Values and Skills of a 360-degree Leader
What’s Your Brand?
Who Do I Have To Become To Get What I Want?
How Likable are You?
A Tip to Improve The Accuracy of Your Decisions
What’s Your Value to the Market?
How to Consistently Make Good Decisions
To Earn Respect You Must Show Respect
How to Make Critical Decisions
What Will Be Your Legacy?
“Put Your Dream to the Test” by Dr. John Maxwell
Carefully Select the People who Influence Your Life
The Valleys Define The Leaders
What Distinguishes You?
The Missing Link
Responsibility Reflects Character


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  • It is hard to become a leader especially in decision making and bringing success to the company. A good leader can be achieve through training that can help them understand and think on how to become a more effective leader and applying it for real.

    I always believed that respect is one of the more important and effective characteristic a good leader must have. Respect their selves and other.

  • Hi Todd,

    good to see you back. Believe it or not, just this morning I was wondering what Todd Smith might be doing and all of a sudden, Google reader presents a new blog post. What a pleasant surprise.

    I like the idea of relating leadership to values of respect and influence. All too often, leadership is just tied to production numbers, but let's be serious: Being a top producer doesn't qualify people automatically as leaders, there's a little bit more to it than just that, is it not ?

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Take care


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