Karen McGregor says a true influencer is a natural connector, engager, and leader—someone who creates good outcomes for themselves and others. If the world has ever needed this kind of influencer, it’s now. Here’s how you can lay the groundwork for becoming one.
To say 2020 was a tough year is a huge understatement. Six months into 2021, we need to take a step back and look at the so-called “influencer” vying for our influence. From spiritually bankrupt politicians to super-wealthy tech geniuses to charismatic personalities who sway audiences to buy their favorite (sponsored) products, these larger-than-life figures dominate our headlines and social media feeds—but they don’t fill our yearning for authentic, heart-driven leadership.
Paying too much attention to this style of influencer leads us down a path of unhappiness, says Karen McGregor. More and more people are realizing this. As we seek to find our way in a post-COVID world, we long for a new kind of influencer, one who creates good for themselves and everyone else. Best of all, anyone can become this type of influencer—including you.
“You may not think of yourself this way, but the truth is you influence people all the time,” says McGregor, leadership and influence expert and author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Tao of Influence. “Everyone does, whether they’re an ‘official’ leader or not. Here’s the question: Is your influence driven by fear, or greed, or the desire to manipulate others, or the need for recognition—or by a deep longing to create a better world for everyone?”
This is a hard question. We all want to think we have selfless or at least benevolent motives, but when we look within—with a sincere desire to know ourselves—we may find a different truth. Once we do, though, we can begin to influence others for the collective good.
McGregor’s book lays out a path—rooted in the ancient wisdom of the 4,000-year-old Tao Te Ching—that you can follow to identify and break the “power patterns” that undermine your influence, block you from getting the results you want, lead to dysfunctional relationships, and otherwise make you miserable. (For example, distorted power patterns mean that some of us are controllers, others are victims, still others withdrawers, etc.)
She also lays out the three stages of influence that people move through in their lives. The first stage is self-centered; it’s all about attempting to get something we want. The second stage happens when we seek out win-wins; our goal is for everyone involved in a decision or action to benefit. In the third stage of influence, we work toward a powerful outcome for all—for the planet, the community, and the evolution of humanity. (This is the Tao at work.)
McGregor hopes readers will recognize where they are and take steps to start moving to a higher stage of influence. “We have to do the inner work to do the outer work,” she says. “The beginning of a new year is not the only time to start this journey.”