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Evidence Management Leadership Series: Influence

August 20, 2021

The ability to motivate and inspire others to take action is the distinguishing factor between a leader and a manager. The best evidence custodians are those who can successfully influence up, down, and across their agency; impacting results by driving positive behavior change. Influencing behavior is not a one-time event, but a continuous process and investment in personal growth that evidence custodians should make. Watch this webinar to learn how influence can help progress your personal and professional goals within your agency.

Ben Townsend, the Founder and CEO of Tracker Products, began by saying, “Developing the Leader Within You is a book by John Maxwell. It’s a rather old book at this point; I think it was written 20 something years ago, but it has had unbelievable influence in my life. I read it about seven years ago. Clearly, I’m in a position of leadership as the CEO of a company, but you guys must be very aware that just because you’re in a leadership position does not mean that you’re good at it. 

It does not necessarily mean that you are advancing your skills. It also doesn’t mean that you really know anything about leadership at all. I’m sure that many times in your life you have experienced very poor leadership. I hope the people that are here today, listening to this webinar, want to advance their leadership skills.

I believe as passionately about this topic as I do about training for anything that goes on in the evidence room, because if there’s one thing that you should improve in your evidence room is your leadership. As you advance your leadership, you will advance your evidence operation to a great degree. And, I believe that is even more true if there are multiple people working in an evidence room; especially if you’re in a supervisor position. 

I’m speaking from experience. I don’t think I was a very good CEO years ago. I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’m still developing my leadership skills, because you never attain perfect leadership. It is a process. It is a journey. Hopefully, for many of you, today is simply another step in the journey. 

So, chapter one in his book is about Influence. The dictionary definition is, The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Certainly, you think about influence as having an impact on another person, but when you think about having an impact on their character, or their development, or their behavior, that has a much more powerful meaning. Even when I just communicate with somebody, I have an impact on their daily life. I mean, when you can impact somebody’s character or their behavior, those interactions become really important. 

A quote that he uses in his book is: He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him, is only taking a walk.

You can be in leadership, and nobody is following you. In fact, as we get to the back end of the discussion here today, we’re going to go through some of the different levels of leadership.


Level One is Position. People have been told you are the supervisor, but that does not mean you’re in leadership. That does not mean you’re very good at it. Remember, leadership is the ability to obtain followers. If you do not have at least one follower, you are simply on your own. 

To build character, to develop them, to improve their behavior and have an impact on their behavior… that’s what begins to get followers coming along. Most people define leadership as the ability to achieve a position, a rank or title, and upon their arrival, think they have become a leader. 

Now, I want to step lightly… In the world of law enforcement, and the world of federal government, most people obtain a position, or a rank, or a title, simply based on one qualifier… the amount of time served. You do not have to have any other qualifications. You don’t have to be good at it. Sometimes no questions are asked. You simply obtain 20 years, and you’re tossed into a position of supervisor. But, that does not automatically mean you’re good at what you do. 

The other thing that I see… There is no leadership training. There’s on-the-job training. These are the things that need to be done, but very little leadership training is taking place. So, I’m thrilled for the people here today that care about this topic. As I said before, your ability to improve your leadership skills will have the single largest impact on your organization.

Think about it, everyone influences someone. You may be thinking, I’m working in the evidence room. I don’t influence anybody. In fact, I’m at the bottom of the totem pole

I suggest that you get in the mindset that you are an influencer every day in your life. If you ever listened to any of those motivational speeches on YouTube, there’s a former Navy Seal – he’s a Lieutenant Commander; really high up in the ranks – he gave a commencement ceremony a couple of years ago where he talked about your level of influence in life.

He said, if there were 8,000 people in the room, and each person in this room influenced just 10 people, then those 10 people influenced 10 more people. By the time you got to the eighth iteration of that, those 8,000 people impacting all those people would have affected 8 billion people. That’s everybody on planet earth. 

Here’s a great quote I found… 


Those are really powerful and opposing words, and you get to choose whether to use your influence in a positive or a negative way. 

My guess is most of the people on here have children; at the very least you are an influence in their lives. It moves out from there: people at your work, people in your church, people in your club, or various friendship groups. Do you think intentionally about your ability to either heal, or bless, or leave marks of beauty or do you wound, hurt, poison and stain other’s lives? 

I would suggest that if you don’t consciously think about that, you may be unknowingly hurting people. In order to positively influence somebody – to heal, bless, or leave marks of beauty – you have to intentionally do that. You don’t just stumble your way into that.


Can you think of somebody that has blessed your life, or they have really healed you in a certain way? I’ll bet, if you went and asked them, Are you intentional about that? Or does that just sort of come by nature to you? I’ll bet you anything, they have been in some environment where they have learned that, and they have excelled at that. They go about doing that intentionally. 

So, the opposite of that is to unintentionally wound, or hurt, or poison. For me, I think about things I’ve said to my kids and sometimes that hurts. You have that ability too. And there is no doubt everybody that’s on this call has said something to hurt or wound somebody else. And, most likely it was unintentionally done. 

Now, if you’re just a jerk and you go about intentionally wounding people, my guess is you’re not going to be on this call to begin with. You probably don’t care about leadership, but that’s why it’s so important to think about your ability to influence somebody else. 

Here’s a little poem that he put in the book, to really bring home your ability to influence somebody…

follow me

My guess is that many of you’ve heard that. And, if you’re thinking about your kids, you’re probably crawling under your desk right about now. We’re all subject to that because the reality is, your kids see everything that goes on and they’re probably following. 

A topic I don’t want to dig into is politics. But, how many of you have kids that have your same political views? The reality is all of you, because you have that kind of influence over your kids. But, my goal here is not to have you think solely about your kids, but to think about the influence you have on the other people in your office; the ability to bless, build up, make them better, or… tear them down.

When you build people up, and help them, and bless them, that is done over a long, sustained period of time. But, the idea of tearing down and wounding somebody, that happens in an instant. In a fraction of an instant, you can wound somebody and it takes a lot of years to rebuild that relationship. My point being, do you specifically consider how you go about influencing other people?

I really liked this next quote about being a teacher… 


Again, really big, heavy words being used here. I would suggest to you that in an evidence room, you have influence, and make an impact on the people that show up to pick up evidence every day. You can make most of the words you chose. You have the ability to make their lives miserable, or you can bring some joy into their day. That happens in every walk of life. Do you consider that when somebody comes in to visit? Do you consider it when the boss shows up? Do you consider it during all of the little interactions you have every day?

I think the larger point that I’m trying to make is… you have all those tiny interactions, and you can use every one of them as an opportunity to influence for better. That way, you begin to build your leadership over a period of time. Those people will want to interact with you. 

In fact, when we dig into the different levels of leadership here, most people don’t fall into line because you’ve been given a title. That will never let you influence them any further than what the dictated title is. If you want people to follow you, and do it enjoyably, then progress as a leader and they will be more apt to fall in line. They will want to help you because you’re helping them. They want to be around you because you make their day more joyous, not more miserable.


Remember, every day you have influence. You don’t know what that’s going to look like over a period of time. Are you building people up or tearing them down? 

Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another. I love that quote. Let me read that again. Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another. 

Let me share a little bit about myself. If I go back about 20 years ago, when I was young,and just starting my own company, I merged with another company. I was the Vice President and I thought I had achieved everything. I thought, This title is going to bring me everything that I want. People are just going to listen. 

I had to learn some really hard lessons. Leadership is not a title or a position. But, don’t knock yourself if that’s where you’re at today. If you’ve said to yourself. Man, I got this title, people are just going to follow me, just realize that’s not true. When you realize that, you can begin to move more toward an arena where you begin to build your influence and some of these other leadership topics. Over time, people will begin to follow because they want to be there. Not because they have to be there. 

In John Maxwell’s book, he talks about five different levels of leadership. And hopefully, if you are in leadership, you’re going to progress through these five levels. Or, you may hit one of them and just stop. Some people don’t want anything to do with leadership, but to some degree you are in leadership one way or another, every day. 

So, I want to run through these leadership levels. We’ve talked about the first level of leadership, which is Position. It is a title. I want to read what he says about this level, and this is not good… 

This is the very basic entry level of leadership. It’s the first rung. The only influence you have is that which comes with a title. People who stay at this level get into territorial rights, protocol, tradition, and organizational charts.

If I just stop right there, and ask you to think of somebody in your department. A person who stays at this level, and gets into territorial rights, protocol, tradition, organizational charts. You guys absolutely know that person. You’re getting a vivid picture of what they’re like in your mind right now. These things are not negative unless they become the basis for authority and influence, but they are a poor substitute for leadership skills. 

The goal is to not stay at that level. If you do stay at that level, then you become the organizational charts and the tradition. In fact, if somebody questions your authority, you’re going to be Johnny on the Spot with whipping out the organizational chart and letting them know, Hey Buster, look at my title. I’m Chief, whatever it is. 


Level Two is Permission; getting people to work for you when they are not obligated. That will only happen when you climb to the second level of influence. In the front of his book, I’ve written some of the most impactful quotes that I came across.

So, if your leadership is all brain, your style is only influenced by thinking. That is not what is going to propel you into the higher levels of leadership. So, in level two, you begin to move with your heart, instead of your head. You begin to care about people, how they progress becomes very important to you. 

Another quote that is in this section, talks about permission level leadership is: People who are unable to build solid lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership.

Oh, that’s true. And it’s the hardest thing, because if you think about it, it’s really hard to deal with other people. People come with problems, attitudes, and all sorts of other things. But, if you believe there is some way to progress without having to deal with – and care for – people, that’s not true.

Again, go back to the definition of leadership… getting followers. You do not propel through these levels without heart over head; without showing people you care about them. If you do not care, that’s what keeps you at level one, because you cannot get that heart aspect of it. 

Maybe you’re an evidence room supervisor and the thought of helping somebody to be better than you someday… Maybe they’re making more money than you. Maybe they will take your position someday. You may be like, Man, there is no way I’m going to go out of my way to help that person. They can figure it out. Nobody helped me out. That right there is thinking with your head, not your heart.

Level Three is Production. This is where things really begin to happen. Good things. Profit increases. Morale is high. Turnover is low. Needs are being met. Goals are being realized. Accompanying this growth is momentum. Leadership and influencing others is fun. Problems are solved with minimal effort. Fresh statistics are shared on a regular basis with the people who undergird the growth of the organization. Everyone is results oriented. In fact, results are the main reason for the activity.

Imagine your organization, your evidence room… people are happy about being there. You have problems and they’re resolved quickly.

BTW, he cautions you in this book… you cannot skip one of these levels. You cannot go to one and then go to three, four or five. You must progress through all five of them. You will not get to level five without going through 1, 2, 3, and four. You have to progress through each of these. So again, there’s no skipping the heart. There’s no getting away from people. There’s no going around. You have to deal with people and you have to do it in a very different way too. 

Level Four is People Development. So, the heart’s in place, the production’s occurring. This level is where you really care about developing your people. You want them to go beyond you. 

How do you spot a leader? According to Robert Townsend, They come in all sizes, shapes, and conditions. But, there is a clue. Since some people are mediocre, the true leader can be recognized because somehow his people constantly demonstrate superior performances. A leader is great. Not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others. Success without a successor is failure. A worker’s main responsibility is developing others to do the work.

You want your followers to progress. You want them to do better. You may even say, Hey, you do better at this than I do. When your people are working like that, and they believe you care more about them than yourself, now your leadership is really propelling into the stratospheres.


Level Five, the last level of leadership, is Personhood. If I asked you to think of a true leader: They genuinely care. They’re so kind. And they’re so courteous in what they do. As a matter of fact, even if they deliver bad news, they do it in such a way that you feel good about it. I’ve got one or two people like that in my life; where if they called me up and asked me to go to war for them, I’m going to do it.

They don’t even have to explain to me why I’m doing it. If they’re making a request, I know that their intent is pure. They’ve got my best interest at heart. They wouldn’t ask me to do it, if they weren’t willing to do it themselves. 

Level five leadership… most people will not attain that level. In fact, go ask the person at that level, and they would probably convince you that they were not at that level, that they’ve still got a lot of work to do. There’s humility that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. I don’t know if I can ever achieve that level. I’m going to work hard every day. I believe I’m doing that within my company. I’m trying to help people progress. I’m honest.

The last thing I’ll throw out before we wrap this up here today is, I found this little chart that takes the word influence or influencer and breaks out every level in every letter into a different type of trait of that person. As I read through these, I want you to see if you can pick out what seems to be the common characteristic amongst them all.


People are the common connector here. So are you nurturing them? Do you have faith in people? Do you listen to them? Do you understand them? 

You’re a better influencer when you sit down with your kids, your co-workers, your friends – everyone you interact with – when you listen to them. When it’s just, yes/no, they’re a lot less likely to open up to you. We know that to be true, whether we’re doing that or not is really important.”

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty… a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the webinars here. Or – to get in on the discussion, with nearly 600 other evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.

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