Have you ever stopped to think how much influence you have?
Recently, I was honoured to be named in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence in Australia.
It was humbling because I first arrived with a backpack, $200 and one way ticket to a country that offers freedom of speech and countless opportunities for everyone to exude influence.
I first learned of the nomination weeks earlier when speaking in Rome at an international women’s conference. The news arrived on my phone just as others joined the breakfast table, so naturally I briefly shared the moment.
Shortly after, one handed me some tissues and two Disprin: “I am sorry about your influenza.” Smiling but not wanting to offend, I explained that I felt fine and must have spoken too quickly for her to confuse influence with influenza.
Her kindness was a catalyst for reflection… What is influence?
Our influence may be fleeting or lasting but we are all women – and men – of influence every day in every way. We can all influence a neighbour – or a nation; a person – or a planet; a friend or a foe. Will that influence be positive or negative? Constructive or destructive? Healing or hurting?
That spontaneous gesture from a stranger in Rome was indeed a positive influence in my world that morning.
Two days later, I arrived to speak at another conference in the Middle East. Ironically, I was unable to ‘influence’ the airline to deliver my suitcase to the same city! Luckily, most essentials were in carry-on luggage and a Filipino friend loaned me her abaya (floor length black dress) which reminded me of the universal nature of kindness.
Influence is the fingerprint we leave when offering a helping hand. It is the footprint as we walk in another’s shoes. Yet even with the best intentions, we inevitably point a finger wrongly or step on someone’s toes. But the footprint we ultimately leave – with even the smallest steps we take in the direction of courage and kindness, should hopefully leave the world a slightly better place than when we first learned to walk.
Our parents held our hand as we took those first tentative steps. Many other people who influenced me for the better will never be acknowledged publicly – aunties, uncles, neighbours, teachers and role models in the world of work long before I knew that term even existed in the lexicon.
Who are you going to thank for being a positive influence in your life today?
Not everyone is in a position of power within their organisation – but we all have the power to influence. May we appreciate it – and use it – wisely during this frantic festive season as we head towards the New Year.
As William James once said: “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”