Are you trying to impress or influence?

Are you trying to impress or influence?

I recently read something Rick Warren wrote that has stuck with me. To paraphrase, Warren wrote that as a leader you have to determine if you want to impress or influence the people you lead. He went on to say that you can impress from far away, but you have to be close to people in order to influence them. As result, they will be able to see your weaknesses.

Deep and lasting relationships—both personal and professional—come as a result of being real.

This really resonated with me because, for many years, I aimed to impress my team and people, in general. My goal was the relentless pursuit of perfection—a phrase I borrowed from Lexus. I thought that was what leaders were supposed to be—perfect. So I kept people at a distance so they couldn’t see the cracks in my armor. But with wisdom, I now know that trying to impress others is overrated. As leaders, we should seek to influence rather than impress. Here’s why:

  1. When you impress you’re just playing a role. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great leaders. Some were really impressive. They seemed to have it all together. But with each of them, I couldn’t help but to feel that something was off. It was as if what I was seeing was a veneered version of them. At first, they seemed real but over time I could tell they weren’t authentic. I wanted to saying something that we would say when I was growing up, “Stop fronting.” In other words, put down the façade and be real.

  2. Seeking to influence comes with risk, but also a greater potential return. There’s no doubt about it: being transparent can be risky. It’s sometimes tough to “put yourself out there.” However, deep and lasting relationships—both personal and professional—come as a result of being real. And it’s the only way you can truly influence your team. If you want to play it safe, simply decide to impress your team. But you have to understand that, by doing so, you’re giving up a lot.

  3. Always trying to impress is tiring. That’s because the desire to impress others is tied to perfectionist tendencies. When you try to impress your team, you’re sending the message that you have it all figured out. The fact is you don’t. But even more than that it’s exhausting! It’s tiring trying to pretend you’re someone you’re not and that you have it all together. I know because I’ve been there.

  4. Influence can last a lifetime. When you impress people, initially they’re wowed. But the effect is temporary. Soon their lofty opinion of you will evaporate into the vast recesses of their forgotten memories. However, when you truly influence others, they will remember it many years later.

In short, be open about your flaws as well as your strengths. Be yourself. Take off the mask. Take the risk and be real. Seek to influence—with warts and all.