A local business magazine, In Business, recently released its list of the 2015 25 Most Influential People in Madison, Wisconsin. I am truly honored to be on that list. But this tribute got me thinking about what it means to be influential. Merriam-Weber defines influential as a person or thing that exerts influence or has the power to cause change. Influence is defined as the power to have an important effect on someone or something. Finally, if someone influences another person (or thing), they are changing that person or thing in an indirect but important way.
According to the article, crisis management is a dominant theme among this year’s honorees. Fortunately, this is not apt in my case. Any crisis in my life pales indeed when compared to crises that challenge our Police Chief and District Attorney, two other “influentials” on the list. Nevertheless, the magazine stated that we all share a unique trait: we offered something significant during the past year. For me, it is my commitment to philanthropy, demonstrated by giving TASC employees up to five days of paid time off each year to contribute their time to bettering the community, and by serving as the 2015 campaign chair for the United Way of Dane County.
But still, I wondered, what makes a person influential? An article in Forbes Magazine by Mark Fidelman listed 25 things influential people do better than anyone else. And while I certainly don’t identify with all 25, a few definitely fit me. For example, number four says influential people exhibit passion for their interests. I know I have a lot of passion for TASC, and for the United Way and philanthropy in general. Hopefully, it shows… Number nine says influential people maintain an intense focus. I can be intensely focused at times; just ask my staff.
I certainly believe influential people are multi-taskers (#13 on Fidelman’s list), are flexible and adaptable (#14), and leverage technology to improve their reach (#17). These three traits are the absolute bedrock of what makes TASC tick, and are reiterated in our Mission, Vision, and Values. Lastly, I completely identify with number 23: influential people don’t have an off switch. Again, just ask folks at TASC.
The moral of this story is clear: any individual can strive to adapt to various traits on “the list,” to work to become influential. Anyone.