The Hidden Power of Influence
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz
[This article is part of the "spiritual leadership today" study/discussion going on this year. For all articles in the series, click the Spiritual Influence tab at the top of the page. To have them delivered, subscribe to The Brook Letter]
“The most hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence.” Herodotus, philosopher, 5th c BC
When he was just five years old Albert Einstein’s uncle showed him a compass and it captivated the boy’s attention. Whichever way the compass was moved some invisible force acted on the needle, keeping it turning on its axis, pointing in the same direction. In later life Einstein liked to tell the story about that moment when he first understood that “something deeply hidden had to be behind things.” That would typify the life of the great physicist whose life work would pursue hidden forces, proving things that defied explanation like the unity of the physical and the non-physical, matter and energy. Ideas that began as white lines traced on chalkboards matured into scientific papers for which he would win the Nobel Prize. Principles that, when discovered, would make it possible to design a terrible weapon that would devastate a city by tearing apart the atoms in a two pound chunk of enriched uranium.
He was brilliant beyond any other scientist of the 20th century. When he died the pathologist who performed the autopsy secretly removed Einstein’s brain, studied it carefully, then preserved it in 240 pieces. Studies of the brain in the years that followed revealed some variances, but nothing seemingly that would explain a man who was so different from others. Walter Isaacson, who wrote a definitive biography on Einstein, says: “The relevant question was how his mind worked, not his brain,” and then quotes Einstein himself: “I have no special talents, I am passionately curious.”
For years Time magazine has come up with a list of the most influential people of the year. At the end of the 20th century Time raised the question of who was the most influential person not just of the previous year, but of the prior century. When the votes were in, the opinion landed on the German-born Jewish physicist with the signature tousled hair, a man easily recognizable in any place in the world, Albert Einstein. He was not a leader of industry or the founder of a movement. He ran no organization and barely had a “job” by normal standards. But his insight into hidden things opened up the world to the elemental side of reality. Out of it came nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine, and nuclear bombs. “Influential” is an understatement.
Time magazine’s annual list of the most influential people includes social activists, leaders of industry, heads of state, scientists, artists, and religious leaders. They are leaders who make things happen, but always because there is some driving idea or ideal underlying what they do. That is where the power lies. Influencers are people who have a grasp of something under the surface, something hidden, which becomes the driving force of change in the world. Influence is power. Awesome power. With it some influencers destroy, others save.
And all influence comes out of the core reality of who the influencer is. People whose life foundation is their faith in God have an extraordinary opportunity to do something more than influence people and organizations out of their personal opinions, preferences, and goals. They can connect faith and influence whether their work is in the realm of business or the church or education or any other endeavor. They want to connect faith and influence because they know that is the way to effect enduring change and they believe God is the ultimate influencer.
Once in a while someone voices the question: what is the difference between secular forms of leadership and a Christian approach? Is there any distinction? What does spiritual leadership look like?
The idea of influence will help us here. Now there is nothing new about linking influence with leadership. Many definitions of leadership in recent years in books and articles include the idea of influence at the core. But the discussions often do not penetrate to the deeper meaning of influence. When used most simplistically, “influence” means persuading people, or selling them, or getting them to march to a certain drumbeat. But the real meaning of influence (Latin: influentia) is something that flows in and causes changes, usually a force that is imperceptible or hidden. Notice the related word “fluid” in “influence.”
Influence is about the hidden forces that make visible results that have an enduring effect. It is about what happens deep on the inside and that becomes visible on the outside. It ties into the core spiritual realities believers know about because they understand the Creator of the universe to be the underlying power and influence behind all things good. Leaders who want to effect enduring change will take the time to understand the power and subtleties of influence. They are not content just to see things happen; they want to see people, organizations, movements, and even culture itself shaped in ways that last for a lifetime.
Listen–if you are in some position in life in which you can be an influence in the lives of others, you are needed! Our world is in trouble; our culture is in trouble; we are in trouble. We need armies of people who will rise to the call of God and be positive influences in their organizations, schools, businesses, churches, and families.
But what does spiritual influence look like?
(to be continued…)
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011 at 8:43 am and is filed under Spiritual Influence.
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