In an interview on Friday with world renowned golf course designer, Mr. Rees Jones, the many ways in which he has influenced everyone in his industry could be seen easily. You may not be reaching millions with your work output or leadership, but do you even strongly influence the smaller group you may lead? If so, how do you do it? Do you give them what they need? Do you pay attention to history? And do you, as we‘ve mentioned in previous posts, make it clear that you care? There are many ways to influence those you lead, but these five are the fastest, most effective methods that I’ve personally seen succeed.
Look Back Then Ahead
Mr. Jones shared a great deal of history in how he’d been inspired to design a course. His design of the Waldorf Astoria resort course in Orlando harkens back to the days of classic fairways and sloped bunkers with post World War II inspired elements. It almost felt as if I were walking a course with Bagger Vance. Yet, when given the chance, do you look back to what has happened before you took on this team? Do you look to days past with previous leaders to see what’s been done, what’s worked and when, and who may have had a vision back then that might be useful now? Influential leaders tend not to reinvent the wheel, but rather build on the momentum of those leaders who came before them.
As Rees and I were talking about his influence and inspiration for his nearly 200 course designs, his nickname came up a time or two. Rees Jones is known as the “open doctor” and even has a hole at the Waldorf course, called Doctor Jones, clearly named after him. Mind you, he’s not a PhD, as those letters alone often provide instant credibility, but rather a leader in the industry who’s become known for course openings on time and under budget. What are you known for in your leadership role? Are you the person others “go to” because they trust you and what you’re known to be able to do? Find the area of expertise in which you are trusted and build on it. Influence is based in large part on how much they trust you to do what you do and when you say you’ll do it.
No one is readily influenced by someone who is unwilling to change or seems closed to any and all new ideas or new direction. Things change. Influence is about knowing how to navigate the change with grace and leadership flexibility. It’s also about being out front and knowing when to allow for a change that may make all the difference in a project, team or group of activities . Mr. Jones cited how his ideas on courses have changed over the years and have depended on the venue and state and tournament for which he is designing his course. I suspect this keeps him as interested as the millions of players who enjoy, and are influenced by, his expertise. How willing are you to change based on what those you lead say needs changing? Are you stuck in your ways? Mind you, that’s a surefire way to drain your influence.
Have a Personality
As funny as this might sound, I suspect many a leader forgets that it’s not your title or role, or even the company, with which employees connect. They connect and are influenced by you and who you are. They listen to you; they watch your every move; they follow your actions and build trust accordingly. Are you authentically leading from a place that indicates comfort in your own skin? Are you real and can they see that? Are you showing them what you think they want to see and expecting them to believe that persona, even when it’s pretty clear you could say “this isn’t really me”? Influence is developed through a series of steps, often a period of years. Much as Mr. Jones, who ,opened his design firm in the mid-70’s, while already a legend in the business, as a son of the infamous Robert Trent Jones Senior, still had to develop trust for his own work alone. It was his personality that influenced his choices and quality work. It was his flexibility that earned the awards of which he is only one of 7 in the world to have earned. It was his admiration of history that showed up in his designs and made him famous and a celebrity in his own right. It was his approachability and of course the ways his eyes dance when he talks about his grandchildren, that has helped golf course managers, pros and players feel they could follow in the footsteps Rees walked when designing the course, when they make the course their own.
How do you own your own level of influence? How do you pave the way for others to follow? How do you infuse the way in which you influence others with respect paid to history, a sense of flexibility, trust and your personality? These are the elements that will elevate your influence and truly make you a better leader.