Whether you seek it or not, you have influence. That means you are a leader, whether you realize it or not. Quiet, introverted people are leaders when the way they act becomes a model for others.
On August 14, 1642, Nicolas Herman became Brother Lawrence of Order of Discalced Carmelites. His work was cooking. He was the fellow who brought in the onions and cooked the meals and did the dishes. It was a lowly position, but his influence was huge.
Over years people noticed his character and sense of peace. They came to him and wrote to him for advice. After he died in 1691, friends turned records of his conversations and his letters into a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. This book is a Christian classic that still influences believers today.
We are imperfect mortals. Sometimes our thoughts, words, and deeds are noble. Other times we can be petty, selfish, or mean.
Even when you do good, you may be misunderstood or criticized. It is tough to be falsely accused of bad motives or inappropriate behavior. It stings more when you are motivated to help others. But false accusations are inevitable for people in leadership or with influence.
Occasionally people have an emotional firestorm that has nothing to do with you. However, you may be close enough to be afflicted by their turbulence and venom. Cynicism, doubt, envy, skepticism, and suspicion exist.
Not everyone can rise above an unwarranted attack. After the wound of an unjustified attack, some people minimize their leadership visibility. Tennis great Arthur Ashe served as president of the Association of Tennis Professionals. That organization was formed to support professional tennis players, especially the ones who didn’t get big paydays and often lost in the early rounds of tournaments. But after he experienced an unjustified attack at a player’s meeting, Ashe stepped away from leadership.
Years ago, a man I respected was the victim of someone who spread vicious lies about him. He didn’t defend himself or accuse his attacker. He said he was “responding in the opposite spirit.” He perceived that the attacker must be in deep pain to generate such viciousness.
In time the truth was revealed, the attacks were dismissed, and the situation resolved. His character and confidence justified his trust in something beyond self and beyond reputation. I respect his compassion, faith, grace, poise, and wisdom. I’ve often tried, but seldomly succeed in “responding in the opposite spirit” in similar situations.
Some, like Brother Lawrence, shun the limelight and lead only with their example. Others lead in public. Both lead by example. Regardless of your preference, an inevitable consequence of having influence are the occasional false accusations. Prepare for it. Be ready when it comes.
In the meantime, please continue to influence people for their benefit. The world needs all the help we can get.
How does your example influence others?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”