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At the outset of our research, we expected to find a set of characteristics or traits that hung together to form an effective positive influence leader. However, the data told us clearly that successful positive influence leaders come in different sizes and shapes. In other words, “One size does not fit all.”

A positive influence leader in your work life is sometime very supportive, frequently an exceptional teacher, at times quite motivating, and often, a confident role model. Effective and successful leaders all have a positive influence on the members of their team, but in different ways and often with a different emphasis. In other words, you can be a highly successful leader using one or perhaps two of the four styles.

Our research shows that all of us have the capacity to use the strengths of all four styles; we just happen to use one or perhaps two styles most often. For example, from our interviews, we learned that certain leaders have been at times an effective teacher; while at other times, they have provided a motivating type of leadership influence, depending upon what the person needed at a specific time in their work life. Other combinations have emerged as well. 

The Supportive Positive Influence Leader

For many people, the first positive influence in their life was a parent or grandparent who believed in them, encouraged them, and supported them from their very first days. It is this capacity for being supportive that is one of strengths of the effective leader, whether you find that person in the home or in the workplace. 

For example, founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Athens, Greece.  She credits her mother with the being the most positive influence in her life. As Huffington said, “She made me feel that I could aim for the stars. And if I failed along the way, that is okay. Failure is not the opposite of success, she used to say, it’s a stepping stone to success.”

The Supportive Positive Influence Leader believes in her people but, more importantly, helps the members of her team believe in themselves.

The Teacher Positive Influence Leader

Many people point to that special teacher who inspired them to achieve greatness, while also teaching them important career skills and how to navigate bumps in the road of life. 

Physicist and astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to walk in space, credits her graduate school professor, Dr. Arthur Walker, for instilling confidence in her such that she believed she could accomplish anything set her sights on, even becoming an astronaut. 

For many women who grew up in an earlier time, a positive influence helped them tackle a job that was previously considered the sole purview of men. For example, Betsy, a woman we interviewed for the book, said her theater teacher convinced her that woman could be successful working on the technical side of theater such as building a set and lighting the stage. 

Teachers are great leaders when they teach people what they need to learn in order to be successful. Perhaps more importantly, as leaders, they create in people the desire to use their skills to achieve great things.

The Motivating Positive Influence Leader

For some people, their pivotal influence came in the workplace when they encountered a manager who “saw something in me” or “pushed me to do something different” or “held me accountable.” The motivating manager identifies some untapped part of you that was previously unknown to you.

Steve Jobs served as a mentor and advisor to Mark Zuckerberg. The two often met to discuss management practices. Zuckerberg credits Jobs with helping him understand that “what you build can change the world.”

Roxanne, a nurse manager in a hospital-based cancer center, whom we interviewed, said the motivating leader in her work life was Dr. Dan Fram, a radiation oncologist. It was his caring approach to patients and the key moments they spent together that convinced her that “oncology provides me with the best opportunity to help people.” 

Effective leaders are motivating leaders who see things in people they often do not see in themselves. They help people realize their potential by showing them the way . . . while not doing it for them. 

The Role Model Positive Influence Leader

“The greatest thing about Michael Jordan was that he was not afraid to fail,” said LeBron James of his boyhood idol and role model. Every fan of basketball during those days will recall that Jordan never feared failure, which is why he was always willing to take the biggest shots in the biggest games. He viewed failure as part of his success and a key part of his development. 

Adriana, a woman we interviewed for the book, came to the US to attend college and pursue a career in business. Adriana saw Dina Habib Powell as her role model. Powell is best known for having been the United States Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy to President Donald Trump. She also served in the Bush (43) and Obama administrations. When Dina came to the US with her parents from Egypt, she could not speak a word of English.

In Dina, Adriana found someone to whom she could relate, and saw that it was possible to be an immigrant woman of global impact. This is the essence of an inspiring positive influence role model leader.

When great leaders serve as positive influence role models, they usually provide clear examples of how things are done properly and push people beyond their assumed limits. 

Which Positive Influence Leader are You? 

  1. Supportive
  2. Teacher
  3. Motivating
  4. Role Model

Maybe you are a combination of several types. Perhaps, for example, you are a Motivating and a Role Model Positive Influence Leader who is able to inspire people to take action, while at the same time serving as a positive example from whom they can learn.

For more stories of positive influence and how you can become a positive influence leader, pick up a copy of our new book, Positive Influence: The Who Helps People Become the Best Self (HRD Press, 2020).