The Right Approach: Leadership 101—The Law of Influence

Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership.

This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about the second of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership[1]: the law of influence.

The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.

This simple truth is the most powerful trait a great leader can have: the ability to influence others. People often equate education to leadership, and that you need to be really book-smart to become a great leader. Nothing could be further from the truth, as these facts indicate:

  • More than 50% of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in college
  • 65% of all U.S. senators came from the bottom half of their school classes
  • 75% of U.S. presidents were in the lower-half club in school
  • More than 50% of millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college

Now this is not to diminish the value of higher education or say that great leaders are not smart; quite the opposite. But great leaders and entrepreneurs tend to fall on the creative side and become bored easily with the mundane, such as sitting in classrooms, and spending hours upon hours doing homework. They feel their time is better spent on higher-level thinking and doing, and in some cases feel that they know more than the professors (which they normally do!).


Servant Leadership
A continuing theme in this series, and the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, is that leadership is not title or position—it’s influence. Early in my leadership journey I believed leadership was all about me; then I shifted and pretended it was all about them, but I still secretly still thought it was all about me. Many years later I realized it was all about them; it’s influence, and that comes from adding value to others. Servant leadership is all about adding value to others, where the leader’s goal is to serve. While the organizational chart may show all the folks who work for you, servant leadership means that you actually work for them. My good friend, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, summed it up nicely:

“You can have what you want…if you will help enough other people get what they want.” 

Poor leaders always have a difficult time understanding this, which is probably why they are poor leaders. Learning to ask, “How can I help you?” instead of “What can you do for me?” is the first step to becoming a great leader. I firmly believe that one of the problems with leadership is there are so many myths, particularly when it comes to influence. Here are the “Five Myths of Influence.”

1. The Management Myth

As discussed in prior installments, people often get management and leadership mixed up. Management can be a part of leadership, but just because you can manage something efficiently doesn’t mean you can lead. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Management is efficiency, control, and managed risks; leadership is direction, enthusiasm, inspiration, and influence. People often think they’re the same thing but they’re really not; monitoring what time people come into work, how long they have for lunch, that sort of thing is not the same thing as leading an inspired team united in pursuit of a challenging goal—is it?

2. The Entrepreneur Myth

The prevailing thought is that entrepreneurs make great leaders, right? But if you stop and think about it, that makes no logical sense whatsoever. Just because someone identified a market need and moved quickly to exploit an opportunity doesn’t make them a leader. That’s a totally different skillset than leadership. An entrepreneur may be brilliant and a visionary, but that’s not leadership; what’s missing is care for others.

3. The Knowledge Myth

This is a classic myth: information is power and therefore whoever has the power is a great leader because leadership equals power, right? Wrong. Leadership equals influence: you can’t force people to follow you, they have to want to.

4. The Pioneer Myth

This again is a popular fallacy. Just because someone got there first or is out in front means they are a leader; wrong again. Once you can appreciate that leadership is a separate, distinct skillset this becomes crystal clear. 

5. The Position Myth

I think this is the biggest misconception of all, and the most dangerous because it is so common. So many people think that it’s position that makes you a leader: give me the position, the title, and the corner office, and then people will listen to me! It’s not position that makes the leader, it’s the leader that makes the position.

I will close with a timeless quote from a leader that truly gets it:

“Being in power is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.  - Margaret Thatcher


  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell, published by HarperCollins Leadership, 2007.

Steve Williams is an independent certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell team.

This column originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.



The Right Approach: Leadership 101—The Law of Influence


Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about the xecond of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The Law of Influence.

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The Right Approach: Leadership 101—The Law of the Lid


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The Right Approach: Leadership 101—Leadership is Hard


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A Conversation With Prototron's Van Chiem


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The New Frontier of Manufacturing


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The Right Approach: Star Trek Inspires Medical Technology—An Update


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Global Sourcing: The 5 Cs of Choosing the Right PCB Supplier


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As our industry continues to evolve and shape-shift, printed circuit board manufacturing continues to shrink through consolidations and attrition. Unfortunately, this trend will most likely continue, albeit at a slower pace than over the last decade. In what has truly become a global economy, partnering with worldclass suppliers is mandatory, and excluding a sub-set of this dwindling supply base because they also happen to be in a crossover business will severely hinder this effort.

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Willy Wonka: The Lean Case Study


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The Right Approach: Culture Shift is Key to Quality Improvement


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The Right Approach: Best Practices: It’s Only Common Sense


One of the fascinating things about Best Practices is that it is occurring everywhere—and many times without the knowledge of the person or organization doing it! How can this be? Most best practice principles fall under a very old-fashioned ideal that some of us still remember: common sense.

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Data Analytics through Statistical Techniques


Many companies get caught in data traps. They focus so heavily on cost and survival that they end up using data as merely a marketing and sales tool. In doing so, they fail to realize the true power of data: It can transform every aspect of a business.

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Cycle Time Reduction with WORK, Part I


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Computer on Wheels


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Supply Chain in the 21st Century


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Best Practices 101: Part 6


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Best Practices 101, Part 5: Process Capability


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Star Trek Inspires Medical Tech for 2015


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Best Practices 101, Part 4


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Best Practices 101, Part 3


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Best Practices 101, Part 2


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Best Practices 101, Part 1


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Customer Feedback: Perception is Reality


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Capturing Tribal Knowledge


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Time for a 'Lean Diet'


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2013: A Look Back


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Point of View: The Value of a Strategic Consultant


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Point of View: 3D Printing - Tales from the Road


In September of last year, columnist Steve Williams wrote about the potential of 3D printing to "save" American manufacturing, as it was quickly becoming the new industry buzzword. Fast forward a year and it is clear that 3D printing may be here to stay and not just another passing fad.

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Temporary Process Change


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Lessons from Lombardi - Not Just for Football Anymore


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POV: Operational Excellence Through Continuous Improvement


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Point of View: What Do Customers Want?


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Point of View: Unleashing the Power of Teams


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Manufacturing Advantage: Japan! Where is the Love for Kanban and Lot Size of One in the U.S.?


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Point of View: RoHS: Six Years After


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Will 'Old' PCB Technology Save American Manufacturing?


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Point of View: A Cautionary Tale


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