Making a Difference for Others Part 2: Influence and Inspiration

You impact some; you influence others; you work to provide inspiration for everyone.

While the scarcity of time prohibits you from impacting a large number of people, the savvy leader works to influence a larger number. Influence is to flow through. You can’t be everywhere at one time establishing the values of the school, focusing on the mission, and gazing at the vision of the school. That’s where influence becomes your conduit for success.

People in your school are behaving… non-stop. HOW they behave is why all of these things (impact, influence, inspiration) should matter to you. You have time to impact a few, but you have time to influence so many others. We most effectively influence others by demonstrating our values in real-life situations. Want to teach your faculty members to have grace under pressure? It’s not going to happen in and email or a powerpoint. It’s when they see you keep it together even when it’s tough. Would you like for your teachers to treat their students with the utmost of respect? Those same teachers are looking at you for what the norms are at your school. If you yell at kids? They think it’s okay for them to do it. If you’re a smart-aleck and sarcastic? Fair game for them. If you are consistently a good listener, you’re showing them how you’d like them to behave.

Influence, often through modeling, is the long-game. You seek to change a larger number of people while investing less individual time. Only those who are willing to be influenced are influenced; some, but not all, of those may benefit from more direct impact.

Influence isn’t just what you do; it’s obvious that the people you spend the most time with have the greatest influence on your behavior, for good or bad. Biggest influence on that new teacher you have? The teachers to her left, to her right, and across the hall.

What does that mean for you? It means you should influence the influencers. Some administrators work to do that through their leadership team. Whether you’re able to accomplish the work there or not, you should seek to find others to spend enough time with on a regular basis so that you may be able to influence their thoughts about school and how it works. Less time than those you impact, but still a selective group. Who are the key people to seek? Those who have influence who are also willing to listen to what you have to share.

That leaves some people out? You do not have enough time to spend with everyone at your school to the point of impacting them. You also don’t have enough time to spend where your modeling and conversations have much influence on your people. Selecting who specifically to focus on is an important task. You couldn’t possibly ignore everyone else, could you? Of course not… but what you do is different.

For one, you continue to have transactional interactions with everyone. You can do those transactional tasks positively, professionally, and with warmth and respect for all of your people. That alone sets you on the right track with your faculty and staff. Beyond the transactional, you still seek the transformational for everyone; the ones you impact, those whom you influence (targeted or organically), and everyone through inspiration.

Very few administrators identify themselves as being inspirational, even the ones who are among the best at it. Inspiration, back to its original meaning, is about “breathing into” someone. Breath is life, and when you’re inspiring someone, you’re giving them a little life. What does it look like? If you were asked to spend the next thirty minutes inspiring people what would you do?

It’s more simple than you may make it. Our faculty and staff are often out of breath. The work they do each day requires heart and mind, body and soul. The inspiration they need is as differentiated as the number of faculty members you have. Sharing a story or video (that we often label as ‘inspirational’) can reach some of your folks. Others are able to get a breath by you taking their lunch duty when they are having a tough day. Part of the breath that helps teachers comes most directly from you as their school or system leader: it’s when you remind them that what they do matters. When you clarify the vision, when you break down the mission you are inspiring them to be a part of the greater whole, and from that many of your folks draw breath.

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