It is What You Know

it is what you know

By Jeff Iorg, President, Gateway Seminary

Leadership equals influence so increasing your influence increases your leadership effectiveness. One important source of influence is information—what you know. There’s an old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Sometimes that’s true. But more often, what you know is very important for influencing others. How so? Two obvious reasons, then two not-so-obvious perspectives come to mind.  

First, Christian leaders are expected to know the Bible and how to use it in decision-making. Gaining information about the Bible, how to interpret the Bible, and how to apply it to complex life situations is one kind of empowering information. When you speak with authority based on biblical insight, followers respond positively. 

Another kind of influence-increasing information is insight about doing your job well. My ministry has been unusual in that I have never had the same job twice. God has always given me a job I have never done before. Each time, a new information base and skill set has been required for effectiveness. My life has been one learning curve after another.

Learning opportunities abound for leaders today. Leaders are learners who pursue personal improvement and professional development. Reading books about how to do your job is one way to do this. Attending conferences and seminars, initiating mentoring conversations with more experienced leaders, and studying job-specific or job-related materials are also helpful. As you learn to do your job more effectively, you will have more influence over others.

There are two other types of information that increase a leader’s influence. The first is information you learn about your followers. For example, as a pastor I knew who struggled with alcohol, was a compulsive gambler, had marital problems, had troubled children, and who was struggling financially. People tell leaders, particularly pastors, their deepest secrets. Leaders must never violate this trust by using information to hurt people. But knowing these secrets brings insight into what to preach, the timing of important decisions, needed programs your followers are likely to support, and other bases for decision-making. Your influence increases because your followers admire your stewardship of their lives and insight into meeting needs others may not even know exist.

The second source of information is experience that produces leadership intuition. I have been through many different leadership experiences in the past 40 years. There are times when I am working through a problem when leadership intuition—experience coupled with Spirit-discernment—helps me make my decision. Sometimes, we know what to do but we don’t know all the precise reasons why. Be careful with this. It’s easy to be too strongly influenced by feelings. Leadership intuition is more than feelings. It’s judgment seasoned by a lifetime of leadership experiences.

What you know does matter. Knowing how to use the Bible, knowing information required to do your job well, knowing about your followers, and knowing when to trust your leadership instincts all contribute to increased influence in leadership relationships.