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Welcome to our Leadership Club. If you are not a member, I invite you to join now. Simply click on the link to the right and enter your email address. We will send a new leadership lesson every two months in English and Chinese. You can also listen to lessons and download MP3 files.

The topic of this lesson is "influence"—how you affect people around you.


Many think leadership is gained by wealth, power or position. However, we believe leadership is influence—nothing more and nothing less. It is your ability to change people's actions and thinking. Everyone has influence. Influential people are found in families, schools, churches, among neighbors, and in the workplace.

Your Choice

Influence begins with a choice. The issue is not whether you influence people around you, but what kind of influence you are. Like it or not, family, friends and people in the community are influenced by your actions. The only choice you have is if your influence is good or bad. Are you making a positive difference in the world? Or are you influencing people in a negative way? Those who set good examples for others to follow are true leaders.

Beautiful Opportunity

The power to influence is a privilege and responsibility shared by doctors and health care workers. Compared to many professions, we meet a lot of people. Every time we interact with someone, we have the opportunity to influence them and do some good in the world.

It has been said the average person influences 10,000 people in their lifetime. But doctors and health care workers are not average. In our profession, we often meet many people each day. In fact, our ability to influence may be ten times more than the average person. Just imagine, over the course of your career, you could influence 100,000 people. What a beautiful opportunity!

Influence Does Not Force

As much as we want our patients to listen to us and take our advice, they do not have to do what we say. We can give medicine, but if patients ignore our instructions and choose not to take it, there is little we can do. Likewise, we can only suggest that people stop doing unhealthy things. We cannot force them to change their ways. The only way we can be effective health care workers is to lead people by our good influence—treating them with love and kindness just like we would want to be treated.

Win Trust

People are more likely to follow our guidance if they like us. So instead of trying to force or control, show you truly care. Build relationships of trust—then be a positive influence. Although it is impossible to measure influence, the way you talk, your facial expressions, and your gentle touch create a message. Each of us can develop a leadership style that will help make a big difference in the lives of others.

A Better Leader

People look to doctors and health care workers for direction and advice to make their lives better. Most patients expect to be led. Although they might be frightened, they want your expert advice. They want you to be a positive influence. If you wish to become a better leader and expand your influence, follow these simple ideas:

  • Focus on yourself first.
    Follow Gandhi's advice to be the change you wish to see in the world. Be a good example and live your life the way you would like others to live.
  • Be honest.
    People are more willing to follow you if they trust you. Tell the truth and do not make promises you cannot keep. Disappointed people are hard to influence positively.
  • Listen before talking.
    Listen twice as much as you talk. Doing so will show you care.
  • Take action.
    Look for opportunities to take action. When things do not go the way you think they should, do not complain, point fingers and blame others. There is always something you can do to influence the outcome.
  • Share your ideas.
    Take time to explain how things could be better. People are often eager to improve their lives or help make someone else's life better. They just need to be shown how it can happen. If you consider yourself a leader, this is your job.
  • Show appreciation.
    People want to give their best effort to those who notice and there is great power in saying "thank you." Look for opportunities to let people know you appreciate their efforts.

Influence takes Time

It would be nice if people were willing to listen to doctors and follow every instruction. It would be wonderful if we could simply tell someone their smoking is killing them and they would follow our instructions to stop. But changing habits and unhealthy behavior is often a long and slow journey.

If we are going to make a difference in the fight against smoking, we must sharpen our leadership skills and improve our influence. Everyday is an opportunity to get better at this important skill. Some older patients will never stop smoking, but our good influence can help young people from starting.

Share with Friends

I hope these ideas help you become more effective in your health care career. I invite you to click the link beside this article to share our club with five of your friends. Only as you tell others will our influence grow. Working together we can make big changes in the culture of smoking.

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