Personal Influence in Education and Leadership


“the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself”
Oxford Dictionary

Never underestimate the influence you have on others”
– Laurie Buchanan

So, two months in my new job as a Business Trainer at Jarrold Training are now complete. Being the new girl, I have set about finding out as much as I can about the organisational culture.

How do we do things around here? Who are my team and what have we got going on? I was pretty excited to see that among so many other topics we run Influence training courses and that got me thinking about the personal impact we have as educators and leaders and how important it is, as Laurie says, that we never underestimate that….

While in the back of our minds all leaders understand that we are role models for others, the individual impact we are constantly having on those around us might not be obvious without direct feedback. Particularly in education, students and customers move on and we might never get to know if we made the positive difference we intended to. Hopefully, on the odd occasion, somebody comes up to us and tells us directly how we have influenced them, what they tell us is good. Often it can take us by surprise.

For me, this happened at a friend’s 40th Birthday Party when a very enthusiastic young man approached me.

“Hi it’s Michelle, isn’t it? I’m so glad to see you again. I want to tell you about all the changes I’ve made since I was on your course.”

I’m, not going to lie, although he looked familiar, I really had no idea who I was talking to. I had been teaching hundreds of different students each year and it was impossible to remember everyone. Luckily he rescued me, shaking my hand, reminding me of his name and telling me that he had been on one of my Leadership and Management courses two years previously.

‘Jamie’ was excited to tell me that since being on the course he had completely changed his career plan. He had been working as a Logistics Officer in the military but had decided to transfer to the Education Corps where he would be able to gain his PGCE and a few years of experience teaching before leaving to work in his home town.

“It’s quite a run-down area where I’m from,” he told me. “There isn’t a lot of employment and I want to work on programs that help youngsters prepare to join the uniformed services.”

At that moment, I finally understood the expression you could have knocked me down with a feather…I hadn’t just had a positive impact on Jamie, I had multiplied! Just like me, Jamie now wanted to help others with their education and career goals – this was double-barrel influence!

“It really inspired me on the course, how much you love what you do,” he said. “How much you enjoy it. I remember asking you why you had started teaching and what you said made it sound like the best job in the world.”

Why do I tell this story? Well, because I had been thinking about the Influence course, a learning program which helps us to understand how we can develop our ability to influence others towards the outcomes that we intend. But when I reflect, it seems to me that the real power of influence is more often found in the unintentional, underestimated and even unconscious personal impact leaders and educators have.

For example, during my first week in my new job, I watched a trainer enthusing a group of students about the benefits of Blooms Taxonomy (yes it’s true, Blooms can be fun and engaging). How on earth do you enthuse anyone about Blooms you may ask? Well, that’s easy, you get enthusiastic about Blooms yourself – and I quite think I am now.

As leaders, we should remember to check in with ourselves. Are we passionate about what we do? If yes, that’s great I would hope so. But are we saying so? When others look at us, do they see our enthusiasm, drive and excitement? Would someone observing us in our work what to be us? Not because of any particular qualities we have but because our behaviour shows our personal fulfilment and a belief in what we do.

It’s a shame to think that we do not have the capacity to remember all of those great individuals we have enjoyed working with so much in our classes. But they will remember us. Our influence may be surprising, it’s something we must not underestimate.

As for me, I have definitely been influenced over the past two months and I think I quite like how we do things around here.


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