Do you ever doubt that you have influence to make a difference? The playlists that go through our minds, whether positive or negative, really affect who we are. And who we are, especially what we believe about ourselves, really defines how we try to change the world.

What Is Your Playlist?

To kick things off, I’ll ask you these questions:

  • What beliefs hinder you from changemaking?
  • What thoughts keep you from being fully alive as you make a difference?
  • Ultimately, what playlists and soundtracks go through your mind?

When I say “playlists” or “soundtracks” I’m not talking about actual music. I’m talking about self-talk and mindsets. When I’m coaching others or when I’m doing my own therapy or journaling, I am often shocked by the debilitating mindsets that come up. I can guarantee you, the soundtracks going on in your brain are likely your primary hindrance in making a difference. They are for many of us.

I don’t know about you guys, but I doubt myself. I see this doubt among many other women like me too. One of the things we doubt is that we don’t believe they can change the world from their everyday lives. Why? Well, maybe you’re a mama with a slew of kids in-tow, like me, or you might even be homeschooling. You might work-part time, like I do with writing and coaching. Or you might have a very demanding full-time job. Your soul might be weighted by trauma or broken relationships. You might also be cynical and burned out. Overall, we are protective of the homes and lives we have worked so hard to build.

I understand, I feel the same things.

And yet we still care about the world around us. So how do we do good when we are overwhelmed with life and protective of the lives and families we have?

The reason I believe we can change the world from where we are is because I tap into multiple beliefs. I’ve made these into the soundtrack guiding my life (you can see more of these beliefs here).

But the belief, the mindset I am talking about today is about our everyday influence.

Leadership Roles

I used to have quite a few leadership roles given to me. Here are a few:

  • Executive Director
  • Nonprofit Founder
  • Director of Strategic Engagement
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Church Leader (during different seasons: pastor, director, small group coordinator & facilitator, worship leader, etc…)

Over the past few years, I’ve stepped out of all of these official leadership roles for a variety of reasons. This has partially been by choice, to prevent burnout, or because of my health. But those aren’t the only reasons. And most of the time, it wasn’t what I wanted. In fact, it has deeply grieved me that I can’t lead anymore in some of the environments I’ve stepped out of (here is just one little example of grieving this).

Considering, off-and-on I’ve wondered if I even had the right to talk about using our influence as leaders when I’m not in an official titled leadership role. It isn’t surprising that I found the soundtrack playing in my mind, “you aren’t actually a leader anymore; you’ve failed and you can’t make a difference without this.” How could I call myself a leader when I am not actually leading?

Are You a Leader When You’re Not a Leader?

Do you think you are a leader? We do things differently when we think we are leading. We are more responsible, we live lives worth imitating, we become proactive, we see value in trying, and we take it upon ourselves to guide others.

If you view yourself as a leader, maybe it was because you were told, as I was, that you have a gift of leadership. Maybe you also have a constant urge to lead in various arenas. But like me, maybe you’ve also had enough bad things happen that you doubt that this is who you are, that leadership is part of your purpose and calling. Sometimes I doubted because I was unseen, as a woman, or sometimes because I felt insecure, especially when my decisions were questioned or people stopped following. Other times I’ve felt like a fraud, struggling with impostor syndrome. Despite what my Life Map reveals, I sometimes doubt my identity is a leader. I don’t know if that is you too, but maybe you relate to this.

Then there are others who don’t view themselves as leaders in the first place. Maybe leadership isn’t a “gift” you have, nor is being titled a leader a role you want. You might not want to be up front or be responsible for group decisions. I know many people who are like that. But just because you don’t view yourself as a natural leader doesn’t mean you aren’t one. You just lead in different ways.

It is vital that we change our definition of leadership if we want to effectively make a difference in the world.

This is now my definition of leadership, adopted from LeadStories Media years ago:

“Leadership is when you are intentional with your influence.”

Jo Saxton and Stephanie O’Brien

We might not all be the classic definition of leaders, but we all have influence. In our everyday conversations, in our guidance of the next generation, among the people we see at work, or chat with at the park. If we are intentionally leveraging this, our influence goes through the roof. And through that, we change the world.

Defining leadership by anything other than leveraging our influence only hinders us.

Leadership Development for Women Leaders

Your Circle of Influence

You know what? Despite having moved away from different leadership roles, I am still using my influence in many areas. Here are some:

  • I influence my family
  • I influence here, at Average Advocate
  • I influence readers at Authentically Elisa
  • I influence my coaching clients
  • I influence fellow writers who I encourage & guide
  • I influence the incredible women in the Mentorship Circles (discipleship leadership groups)
  • I influence my friends, family, neighbors and parents in my kids’ schools

These are my circle of influence. Who are yours? Just look around you and see who you interact with. Make a list, adding people from each sphere of your life. This is your circle of influence. Who are you being intentional with? Whether you like all of them or not, these people are valuable. These are the people you get to love deeper, invite towards doing good together, and they are the ones who might challenge you to grow when you interact with them.

Informal Influence

Most of these areas of influence are informal. And that is fine. I am constantly informally influenced by other writers, podcasts, friends, and neighbors. Whether it is a story that is shared or a value that is talked about, your conversations end up sticking to the people in your circle. Even if they aren’t interested in what you are talking about now, someday they might be. They will know to talk to you. You can even influence me too! If you go out of your way to comment on this post, I respond. If you share it and tag me, I notice and it encourages me to keep going. I remember these people, they are why I keep writing (it is definitely not for the money!). Informal influence might be the most valuable type there is.

Our influence as changemakers is determined by how much capacity you have and how much influence you want

What’s the limit to influence?

The level of world changing influence we have is mostly determined by two things:

  1. How much capacity you have
  2. How much influence you want

Influence is Seasonal

Most of last year, I had no bandwidth to influence anyone in my pregnancy and sickness. That is okay. There are seasons for having wide influence and seasons for having smaller circles of influence. Besides, the smaller the circle is, the easier it is to go deeper. For example, I go much deeper with my family than I do that one neighbor who I occasionally talk with about social issues. On the middle ground, I might not have a huge platform, but it isn’t super small either. I have the capacity to interact with whoever interacts with me on social media, even if I can’t schedule one-on-one meetings with each of them. On the other hand, I put all my eggs into the basket, going wide with Blackout Trafficking. I invited some friends to create a team, joining me, going deep with them, so together we could go wide. Then, as they took it over, they used their influence, developing networks and connections. But, as influence is seasonal, when our capacity went down again, Blackout Trafficking’s circle of influence has gone down.

Our influence is seasonal because our capacity changes in different seasons. If we aren’t aware of this, and intentional with our time/energy, we will burnout. (I use Life Mapping and coaching to help me manage and reevaluate my own capacity.)

If we aren't intentional with our capacity as changemakers, we will burnout

Influence Comes From Living a Life Worth Imitation

Each year, I try to lead one or two Mentorship Circles. I look at those in my circle of influence around me, women I already know that I think would be interested based on our shared faith and whether they seem to be moving forward or not in leveraging their own influence. I usually doubt that anyone will say “yes” to my invitation to join the Mentorship Circle with me. After all, why would they want me to lead them through something formal? There are those who say “no” because they already feel equipped to lead in their faith well. Others say “no” because of the schedule. I am sure there are those who probably don’t want me to lead them. But I am often surprised to discover there are those who say “yes” because I am already leading them. They’ve been watching me. These women see I already care for them, am already trustworthy, and that I am responsible with the influence I have from my everyday life. We are simply formalizing what already might be existing, and leveraging it to help release these women into their own full potential.

It is when we get concerned with whether we are living lives worth following that we actually find people being influenced by us. The character and acting like a leader is what makes people follow us. We don’t want to wait until we know people are following us before we leverage our influence and walk with the integrity of a leader.

You Matter

Every revolution that has ever started began with a person who chose to use their influence. Every faith that has moved mountains, every nonprofit that has been founded, every book that was written, and even every encouraging word that has been offered–both big and small–each thing matters.

This last Friday, actually during that week’s Mentorship Circle, I heard, “You are a leader” and I broke down a little. Why? I didn’t realize I was listening to the playlist in my brain that was telling me I had no influence. Unconsciously, it was discouraging me. It kept me from doing good, living my best. Insecurity always keeps us from moving in confidence. But the words of truth about my identity broke that playlist. It grounded me to my purpose and calling. It made me acknowledge that I am still leading. It made me want to be even more intentional with my influence, too, because it matters.

I matter in this world.

And you do too. I am not sure that you’ve been told this recently, so if not, I’m here to declare it. You matter, both because you do, intrinsically. And what you do matters, what you bring to the table, how you make a difference. We can choose to not go gently into the good night. We can fight for what is right, believe that together is better, and stop underestimating the small things that add up. What would happen if this generation of women rose up to change the world, in whatever ways they could? Incalculable good, that’s what!

So today, let me ask you, what truth do you need to hear to align with who you are and your purpose?

What playlist do you need to play to live in confidence?

What soundtrack helps you use the influence you have for the good of others, for the good of your home, community & world?

I’d love to hear about it! Let’s remind ourselves that we have influence and it matters!

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