Throughout history, most learning happened through the system of master and apprentice. We are influenced by those who have a higher amount of experience than us.
The Master isn’t just a teacher. He is a participant. The Master jumps in the trenches to show you how it is done. We are influenced not only by the hearing of information but by the witnessing of expertise.
Humans are biologically wired to be apprentices. We are babies, learning everything from language to bathroom procedure to communication style from those around us. We are a participative culture and it makes sense that we would look to those who have been participating in our culture longest as standard bearers for how to operate in the world.
The fourth type of person who influences our way of life is The Delegator. This person looks a bit like the Director except that The Delegator assigns us authority but not responsibility. The trending word for this is empowerment. A delegator honors our autonomy and values our ability to self-govern, trusting that we can accomplish what needs to be done.
Mentors are often good delegators. We have life coaches and psychologists and a host of other types of people who serve as delegators. They give sage wisdom and direction and then allow/ask us to figure the how out for ourselves. We lean on pastors as delegators.
The reason these people have influence over us is because we feel like we just need a little help. Just a road sign or a lighthouse. Something to let me know I’m on the right (or wrong) path. We need a vision. And in lieu of fully understanding our own vision, we will adopt one from others. This can be helpful for a time but is unsustainable in the end.
We are influenced by delegators because we are desperate for meaning and purpose. We are hungry for direction. We’ll take the advice of a good friend, the suggestion of a direct report. Using our discernment for trust, we will take some heavy hints from The Delegators of our choosing.
The last person to influence us uses the most powerful and effective form of influence in our lives.
The Icon is the person living life the way you want to. We are most inspired, most transformed, most influenced by the example of transformational living that we witness in other human beings. When we talk about wanting to be like our heroic fathers or mothers, strive to emulate spiritual or business gurus, and follow the lead of wise friends and coworkers, we are talking about the influence of icons.
The slippery slope of hero-worship tempts us to turn icons into idols. True icons do not elicit our worship, just our admiration. It stirs the best version of ourselves out of slumber and into the light of day. We do not want to become an exact replica of the icon, we want to match the sense of beauty, peace, or authenticity we see emanating from it. Icons rust and show imperfections while idols maintain a manipulated perfection. If we are hypnotized by a person, we are not being influenced by them but controlled.
An icon’s influence is the most effective method for change in our lives. But, we must be careful as it is the beautiful effectiveness of the icon that makes idolatry so seductive and tempting.
The Icon makes us more self-aware, awakens the longings deep within us to be the best person we can be. The Icon inspires our deep desire to be an icon ourselves. Leaders inspire us to lead. Influencers inspire us to influence.