Influence has nothing to do with a placard or a title. I know this because at home I am known as “dad” and quite often I am simply at the whim of everyone else in the household. My title carries with it very little influence. Being outnumbered by my four kids, I know that a mutiny can happen at any time. At work, I am a principal. I am an evaluator. I am a teacher. I have dozens of workplace tasks that define my role, but none of them define my power and influence. 450 kids, 65 staff members, only 1 me. My title may give me some authority, but authority without influence, matters little.
Too often in organizations, we see individuals who carry with them the title “boss” and erroneously believe that this also equates to influence. Often it is the “boss” who makes the biggest miscalculation. I absolutley believe that respect is given and not earned. I whole heartily believe that respect is a basic human right. That is not to say that respect, authority, and power all equate to influence. Influence and the power to change thoughts, actions, and beliefs very rarely come from positional authority.
In my building, I am no fool. I completely recognize that sometimes simply because of my title, my ability to influence is negated. I have a big office. I have a private phone line. I have degrees and have written books. I get to travel the country speaking and presenting, yet as much as I love all of this, at times all of this can actually get in the way of getting the job done if I allow them to. In an attempt to change mindsets and create enhanced culture, some may rebuff my ideas and suggestions simply because I am the boss and for no other reason. One thing that I have recognized is that often in schools, influence and pay have an inverted relationship. If you are a leader and you really want to change your school, don’t try to do it alone. If you want the masses to buy in, convince your secretaries, custodians, and paraprofessionals first. They are often the toughest critics, your most vocal employees, and the ones with the greatest power to leverage your leadership. The real power does not come from those with the biggest paycheck. It comes from those with the biggest audience.
I have heard many administrators make the statement “I do everything for the kids.” This is an amazing mindset and one that I hold on to. This does not mean that in working with and for your students that you make the lives of the adults miserable. If you want to enhance the lives of your students, work to enhance the lives of those on the front lines. Only once a leader realizes his or her ability to lead depends more on those who follow, and his or her ability to serve them, will change begin taking root.
If you really want to see where the power and influence lies in any organization, get a hold of the payscale, turn it upside down, then start with the top. Real leaders understand that Bold Humility is what gets the job done.