In the late 1990s I was the training manager for two Kentucky locations of an international computer training company. I had a little over 20 trainers reporting to me. It was a good experience and I think I did a good job representing the needs of the trainers to management and representing the needs of the management and business to the trainers. I had good relationships with everyone. I left that role feeling good about what I had done there.
In my current role, I have nobody that reports to me. I don’t really aspire to management, although I’d consider it if asked. I love what I do and it isn’t arrogant to say that I know I’m good at it.
Does the difference in people reporting to me mean I have less influence in my current role managing nobody compared to the previous company where I managed over 20 people? No. Not by a long shot. The reality is that my current role as community manager for a 20,000 member online community gives me the opportunity for great influence and the responsibility that goes along with that.
Perhaps some in the community see me as having positional power within the community, and I suppose they are correct. But far more important to me is to be a positive influence that helps people cooperate, collaborate and connect together in ways that benefit both them and the business. I don’t care much about having power. I do care about having influence.
When you look back on the people that have been most influential in your life outside the obvious family members, chances are pretty good that the ones with the greatest impact have not been in positions of great power, but rather they have been influential in other ways. The good news is that everyone has the ability to be a positive influence on others regardless of the position they hold in their work or community. Such influence is earned through trust and demonstrating expertise, wisdom and good judgment over time.
Leap year lesson #210 is Choose influence over power.