The Equation of Influence

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Influence.  Some people define leadership this way.  All of us desire more of it.  Search Google and we’ll find lists of “the 10/20/50/… most influential… (books, movies, people…)”.  Why does influence matter so much?  Because we want to matter!  We yearn for our words, actions, and lives to impact someone somewhere.

That’s why countless books have been written on influence, and the more well-known ones have influenced millions of us.  People even pay thousands of dollars for courses on how to become influential.   I’ve never taken such a course, but I did discover one effective tip while visiting relatives:

Expertise brings influence.  During one family gathering, my husband and I were chatting with our adult niece and the subject of vegetables came up.  A veggie lover, I always salivate over the salads at a potluck and shun the sugary desserts.  (I know, this sounds weird!)  Researching and sharing nuggets of nutritional wisdom is something I love to do, because of the real benefit to myself and others.  My amateur expertise has provided good food for thought and even better food on the table for those influenced by it.

Yet I will always defer to this particular niece.  Why?  Because she’s nearly completed her Masters in Nutritional Science, has been working as a nutritionist for the last nine years, and has kept up with research both in knowledge and practice.  So when she tells others what’s best for our bodies and overall health, we listen! 

Back to the conversation-- she told us she eats frozen vegetables.  “Frozen veggies?!” I asked, incredulous—“I thought fresh is always better!”  I really didn’t expect a health-food, practice-what-you-preach, bona-fide nutritionist to advocate frozen anything over fresh!  But I was all ears when she responded, stating her case:  [paraphrased] “Actually, frozen vegetables are often better.  Because by the time fresh ones reach the supermarket, they’ve been sprayed with preservatives, since they sit awhile, and much of the vitamins and nutrition are lost in the process.  But frozen vegetables retain their nutrition because they’re frozen as soon as they’re picked.” 

“Oh, wow!  I didn’t know that!  Thanks for letting me know!”, I responded, convinced that I needed to give frozen veggies another try and make sure the fresh ones hadn’t been sitting around, preserved, emptied of their nutritional value.  Why was I so quickly willing to change my way of thinking?  My niece’s expertise and the results of it—“the proof is in the pudding” (well, maybe not pudding, unless it’s a healthy kind!).  She, her husband, and two small sons enjoy good health and body-mass-index. 

By now, it’s likely that anyone reading this encounter is reconsidering frozen vegetables.  That’s the thing about influence, especially the kind born from real expertise—it spreads.  As much as people unfortunately like to gossip, they also like to share what works—because, in the process, it gives them some degree of influence too.

Expertise also gains us entry into spheres of leadership, including government.  Prov. 22:29 informs us “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”  Leaders want the best and will give influence to those who can give the best in what that leader needs. 

Plus, expertise overcomes age, background, and position in society.  I saw my niece grow up.  But when she talks about nutrition, I don’t see a “little girl”, I see an expert on what’s healthy and what isn’t.  When we lived overseas, I learned lace-crocheting, carob-syrup making, and many other things from mountain-village women who’d never gotten past the second grade and couldn’t read.  Their expertise made me their “student”.  That’s how Paul could assure Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

All of us have some kind of expertise—something the Lord has designed and equipped us to do well.  The key, though, to true, lasting, and good influence, is character.  Daniel, living in Babylon/Persia, modeled this. The teenage son of a captive people, he rose to a top government position, serving 4 kings in two conquering regimes!  Why? Because those kings found his expertise valuable and his character trustworthy.  (see the Book of Daniel, for ex. 6:3).  I also trust my niece to give helpful advice because of her godly character.

Gain expertise.  Learn, train, practice, and hone our skills, and the influence will come.  But if we want it to be good, lasting, influence, we need to develop our character with it.    Expertise + integrity—> good influence—> right impact.  An equation that works. Greens, anyone?