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Opinion: Relationships are foundational for influence

2022 Most Influential Women

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When faced with a big decision, uncertain circumstances or new opportunities, many of us first reach out to someone we can trust for wisdom, advice and direction. Often, we seek out a person with whom we have a trusted relationship. We then allow this person’s insights, thoughts and life experiences to shape our own. This is influence.

As I reflect on this phenomenal class of 2022 Most Influential Women, they represent an infinite number of influential relationships. These women positively influence others and are influenced significantly by a diverse group of people throughout their lives. Clearly, it is impossible to have influence in isolation. Pastor Craig Groeschel teaches, “The stronger the influence you want to have, the stronger the relationships you need to build.” So, how do we intentionally seek out strong, influential relationships?

Hospitality and authenticity effectively fuel strong, influential relationships. Hospitality provides healthy proximity for us to do life together and authenticity invites accountability, service and growth in every facet of our lives.

Years ago, I heard an impactful metaphor for showing hospitality to increase influence in our lives. Imagine hosting a table with many seats. Intentionally, we invite people we can mentor and also those who can mentor us. These mentors are trusted people I can welcome into spaces where I most need growth. In giving a diverse group of people a seat at our table, we build community, eliminate isolation and empower one another.

Authenticity deepens influential relationships through transparency. When I strive to see others’ needs and choose to serve to meet those needs, the outcome is a variety of healthy, selfless relationships where I first seek what I can contribute and encourage instead of what I can receive. When we choose to live together authentically, when you grow, I grow and when I grow, you grow.

As a lifelong educator, I often hear a mantra shared with new teachers, “Your students will not care what you know until they know how much you care,” emphasizing how influence is strongest within the context of caring relationships. This relational foundation is paramount to influence flourishing in and through our lives. The best is yet to come for this class of Most Influential Women as they build strong, influential relationships with people in our community each day!

Shonna Crawford is education department chair and professor of education in literacy at Evangel University and a 2021 Most Influential Women honoree. She can be reached at


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