You probably see it every week—leaders who undercut their influence not just by what they’ve done, but by something they’ve said or posted.
Sometimes they blow it completely through one or two dumb moves. And sometimes you end up thinking, “I’m not really sure I want to follow them anymore,” but you’re not exactly sure why.
Loss of influence can be subtle, but it’s real. And it’s so easy to do if you’re not careful.
Because of constant—even daily— exposure, social media makes influence easier to gain…and that much easier to lose.
Almost every ministry leader is on social media today. And so is almost everyone they lead.
So the opportunity to squander your influence is that much higher. Add the quick and recent cultural shift we’ve seen to the age of outrage and a post-truth, post-fact culture, and the opportunity to lose influence fast is even greater.
Want to know what the worst part is? Often we lose influence without even realizing it.
Why Influence Is So Important
Before we jump into how leaders lose influence on social media, a word on why influence matters.
Properly construed, influence is not actually about ego at all.
Gaining and building influence is critical for all of us who lead because, as John Maxwell has famously said, leadership is influence.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
The thing about influence is that it takes years to build but only seconds to lose.
Lose your influence and you’re not leading anyone.
Build influence and you can take people places they wouldn’t ordinarily go, which is the essence of a leader’s job.
Moreover, if you’re a follower of Christ, you believe the influence you’ve been given is a trust.
You’re not leveraging influence for your sake, but for the sake of a cause much bigger than yourself.
Which is why it’s so sad when ministry leaders squander trust or undermine influence.
So how do leaders undercut their influence on social media? Here are six subtle ways I’ve seen it happen.
1. Portraying a Life Everyone Suspects Isn’t Real
It’s so tempting to portray a perfectly manicured life.
But everyone knows your marriage isn’t perfect and that your kids aren’t really as magnificently brilliant or wonderfully behaved as you let them on to be.
Bragging has become an online staple for many. Whether it’s kids’ awesome report cards, your house that can almost look like a glossy mag/Pinterest/TV, or the selfie you and your spouse took on your date night.
But dig a little deeper and you’d discover:
You tweeted the two As on the report card, but not the Cs.
The house only really looks showcase when you hold the camera at just the right angle just before sunset and as long as the dog doesn’t photobomb the shot or eat the pillow and you keep the peeling paint out of the pic.
The selfie was taken a half hour after the fight ended.
I know, I know. We’ve all been there.
So what’s the key to building authentic influence online?
You probably don’t want to disclose every high or every low, but you do want to share a slice of everyday.
The truth is most of us are pretty average. And average resonates. If you want to see my approach to this, follow me on Instagram. My insta-stories are pretty much a narrative of my everyday life. And I love to follow people who do the same. I don’t always get it right, but I try to keep it real.
Leaders, people want to know you’re real. Because if you are, they can relate to you. (That’s why we love behind the scene looks at celebrities…just to know they’re people too.)
Oh, and God has a habit of using ordinary people.
People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.