A colleague once told me that influence was THE essential measure of leadership.
I disagreed with him.
My reasons have less to do with what leadership is, and more to do with the context where leadership takes place.
My perspective is based upon what I learned over the years as my leadership model, the Circle of Impact, formed in my mind.
For me, leadership is the change that we create through the intersection of our ideas, our relationships and the social and organizational structures of where we live and work. This is the basis of the Circle of Impact.
The Culture of A Spectacle.
The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images. – Guy Debord
Images and opinions are the currency of influence. The social context is online. There a person is influential because they can persuade people to believe that their opinion is true.
The world of the spectacle is the world of the social media screen. Here we intersect with people with whom we do not know personally but wish to influence.
The spectacle of influence does not produce personal relationships. Instead, it is a platform for the projection of influence. What we see is a representation of influence, not influence itself.
The influence is transitional, lasting only until we read the next person’s comment. Yet, we invest ourselves in seeking to be persons of influence, believing that we have something to say that has value. This may be true. However, the spectacle nature of the online social world makes it difficult to create relationships of impact.
The spectacle of influence is a social world, but not a relational one. It is not a place which fosters direct relationships of mutual responsibility and accountability.
Within the spectacle of influence, we are only known for the opinions we share or like. Any direct relationship that develops between other people and us, ultimately, requires us to leave the social space of the screen to find meaningful engagement.
How Things Are Changing
There have always been versions of the spectacle based on Guy Debord’s description above.
In ancient times, the emperor and his entourage in their military regalia presented an image of supreme power. The image of the emperor formed the basis for a relationship between people as subjects of the empire. Without the image, the people would only exist in the relationships that they had as family and neighbors.
Even today, we exist as different nationalities and ethnic groups by a set of images that form our social relationship as people. Cultural traditions provide us with images that link us to our ancestral past. However, in most cases, these images also provide a basis for direct relationships with people with whom we share common values and social practices.
During the past generation, this historic circumstance has begun to change. Now, we still have our direct relations with family, friends, and co-workers. What has changed is that the influence of people with whom we do not have a personal relationship has gained a level of significance that for many people is negating the importance of their direct relationships.
The influence to join or to follow an online social movement is powerful. It makes us feel influential. We feel that our voice matters. Yet, how do we really know? How do we measure that influence? If it is through product sales, is that really the best we can say about our influence?
I am convinced that we are at a transition point in the development of the online world. The choice to be made is between influence that is fleeting, lost with the next comment viewed, and becoming a person of impact.
The question for us is, “Which life do you want? One of influence or impact?”
Becoming a Person of Impact
To understand how to become a person of impact, it helps to understand more specifically what this idea of the spectacle is. In 2013, at the beginning of my research for Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change, I wrote an essay describing the spectacle nature of our world. You can find that essay, The Spectacle of the Real, online at (https://edbrenegar.typepad.com/leading_questions/2018/10/the-spectacle-of-the-real.html). I have begun working on a white paper which will update and expand what I wrote there six years ago.
I am more convinced than ever that our hope for the future resides in our taking personal initiative to create direct relationships of mutual impact. My Circle of Impact Engagement Tour happening now across the U.S. is designed to create these direct relationships of impact.
Finally, if you are you are ready to become a Circle of Impact leader, begin by reading my book. You can find it at Amazon (https://amzn.to/2Bb6khW) or your local independent or Barnes & Noble bookstore.
I welcome direct conversation with you. You can schedule time with me at https://schedulewithEdBrenegar.as.me.