Leadership, Leaders and Those Who Influence Others
by Dr. Phil Smith
"Leadership is influence!" is an important definition that noted author John C. Maxwell uses in his many books and audiotapes on the topic. I must admit that the definition works for me. One of his earlier books, Developing the Leader Within You (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville 1993) lays out five hierarchical levels of leadership, from positional leaders (people follow you because they have to) to personhood leaders (people follow because of who you are and what you represent). I think we have all experienced leaders at different stages and effectiveness. In a later book, The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2005) Maxwell challenges us to see that we not only influence those who follow us (leading down), but also our peers (leading across) and our superiors (leading up). So if we are all leaders, then we have to accept the fact that sometimes we are effective and sometimes we miss the mark. But rather we are good or bad at it, we all lead.
As we senior editors outlined what belongs on a resource site for the Health IT and Applied Health Informatics communities, we both agreed that Leadership Resources are important, both for basic content topics and useful tools. Both of us have led teams, influenced health care C-Suites and developed and refined methodologies to get some fantastic results an occasionally mediocre ones. We hope to share not only the tools and content that has helped us, but bring in a growing list of contributors to provide meaning content and useful tools that you can apply today and tomorrow with confidence.
In 2013 I had the opportunity to develop a course on the topic for a Master's in Applied Health Informatics and taught it several times. It seemed reasonable to discuss leadership theory, research and styles; change leadership; and the application of these to actual Health IT initiatives. Yet there is some much to learn about leadership, that it even seems beyond a single course. In fact, Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) created the Rhodes Scholarship (1903) at the University of Oxford to foster a new generation of world leaders with the hopes to "render war impossible". So we have a big job ahead of us to define the aspects of leadership critical to our community and share our effective tools.
Northouse's textbook Leadership Theory and Practice, sixth edition ( (c)2012, SAGE Publications) outlines the "components central to the phenomenon of leadership:
- Is a process
- Involves influence
- Occurs within a group context
- Attends to common goals
- And followers are involved together
- And followers need each other
- Often initiate and maintain the relationship
- Are not above or better than followers"
Dr. Phil Smith having a little fun on his 60th birthday with a small group he leads. Make sure to share you best leadership resources so everyone can benefit.
As we develop our leadership tools and skills, we should also acknowledge the role of leadership culture. I have developed some collateral information on this topic on my consulting website. Also, be willing to have some fun as you lead. A small group that I lead recently surprised me on the eve of my 60th birthday with an impromptu party. So being willing to share a funny photo is just part of enjoying the process along the way. I hope that we can all work to provide some great collaboration and leadership resources through the years.