A Leader’s Real Ability to be Truly Influential

By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

A leader’s real ability to be truly influential, is our ability to be influenced. It is fundamental to great leadership. It may seem counterintuitive – but it is true.  I didn’t always think this way. Now, I live by it. Let me explain why.

Leadership is a tough task in the best of times. In fast-changing turbulent times, it is immeasurably harder. A leader must gather information, process the data, make strategic choices, move quickly, and make plenty of adjustments.  How is a leader to do this best?  With the help of others.  It’s how I have seen it done well.  Let me give you an example.

When I first entered the Army in 1986, I was a part of building the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum.  The 10th Infantry Brigade had only one battalion at the time. It also was beginning to stand-up the 3-17th Calvary Squadron.  I requested to move to that unit as its S-2 or Military Intelligence Officer. When I first arrived at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY where it was initially being stationed, there were only 5 officers of the Headquarters Unit.  It was our job to accept the soldiers and equipment and be combat ready in 2 years.  It was an aggressive timetable. We actually met it.  It was one of the most exciting and difficult professional tasks I have ever been involved with.

The 3-17th Calvary Squadron deployed to Fr. Irwin California less than two years after being formed and executed its task to standard at the National Training Center.  Hundreds of pilots, technicians, and combat soldiers using hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment all coordinated to provide intelligence and military screening actions. Wow.  It was amazing.  Our squadron commander was LTC Belich, one of the finest officers I have ever worked with.  A Vietnam Veteran, he was the real deal.  He worked tirelessly to lead us.  He always started by listening to us.  He allowed himself to be influenced throughout.  He would always ask me what I intended to do.  He would encourage me to find the answers.  He would cheer me on.  This is what he did with all of his officers and soldiers.  He did it with incredible humility and with a servant heart.  He had great influence because he allowed himself to be influenced by everyone he worked with.  I learned a lot from my assignment with the 3-17th Calvary Squadron and my time with LTC Belich.

This past week we celebrated Veterans Day.  I thought I should share this story about leadership and service.  Leaders who want to influence others must first allow themselves to be influenced. I have seen it in action.  You probably have also.

What are you doing to be influenced by those who work with you and for you?  Do you listen first – and then share your thoughts?  Do you trust those around you to give you what you need to know?  How can you increase the chances that others will share their hopes, concerns, and suggestions with you?  These are questions we can all use to be influenced – and to grow our own influence.  I know it is something that I learned a long time ago from a wonderful combat Veteran, LTC Belich.

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