How Can You Be A Leader Right Where You Are, Even If You’re At The Bottom?

May 11, 2016 1 Min Read

I often hear this question from young aspiring leaders. They want to apply my teaching to their current situation, but they don’t know how.

The good news is that you can be a leader no matter where you are. You don’t need a title. You don’t need a position. You don’t need a formal education. All you need to begin is the desire to lead and the willingness to learn. The key is influence.

Leadership is influence

You might have heard me say this before. But it’s still true: Your ability to influence others will be the single greatest factor in your success as a leader.

Author and professor Harry Allen Overstreet asserted, “The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate.” Influence is an invitation anyone can make to another person.

Influencing others is a choice

The reality is that if we want to lead, we must choose to positively influence others. We can be indifferent to people, pursue our own agendas, have bad attitudes, and refuse to work with a team.

Or, we can care about people, be inclusive, work to be positive, cooperate with others, and try to positively influence them. It is our choice. If we choose to try to influence people, we can lead from anywhere.

Our influence is not equal in all areas

Just because you have influence with someone doesn’t mean you have influence with everyone. Influence must develop with each individual. If you don’t believe me, try ordering around someone else’s dog!

I discuss the process of developing influence with others in The 5 Levels of Leadership.

In summary, it starts with Position where you receive a title, grows to Permission as you develop a relationship, builds upon Production as you help others get things done, strengthens as you engage in People Development, and culminates at the Pinnacle when you raise up other leaders who develop people.

The most effective leaders are intentional about trying to positively influence others. And they understand that they have to work to increase their influence with individual people. And by the way, these things can be done even if you don’t have the position.

With influence comes responsibility

People who desire to lead often seek leadership positions because of the perks and privileges. However, as leaders we should always be aware that leadership carries responsibility. What we do affects the people whose feelings and well-being are within our influence. The influence we have with others will be positive or negative. We choose which one it will be.

People of positive influence add value to others

Groundbreaking major league baseball player Jackie Robinson observed:

“A life isn’t significant except for its impact upon other lives.”

If you choose to influence others and become a better leader, I hope you will do so to add value to others.

The above are excerpted from my book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. The first third contains my thoughts and teaching on the value of questions, with what I consider the most important questions we can ask ourselves and others.

The remaining two thirds of the book are filled with questions like the one above, followed by my answers based on over 40 years of learning in the area of leadership. It’s like sitting in on a Q&A session with me and a room full of smart, inquisitive leaders.

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions will be of value to you as a leadership development resource, whether you read it through in one sitting or consult the material as you need it.


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Copyright 2016 The John Maxwell Company. Articles accessed via may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission from The John Maxwell Company, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles.


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