How crucial is influence to your organization?

Is it Really a Leadership Issue?

Well one could well say that many of these principles from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell have little to do with leadership and more to do with personality types or merely sound ideals.  However, that may be due to one’s view of what leadership is and what it is not. The second  Maxwell leadership principle, influence is the essence of leadership “nothing more nothing less”.

Explain It To Me Like I’m Six Years Old

The law of influence is essentially about how a leader  effects others within a family, community, organization, or company. Genuine influence is not based on charisma but comes from the ability to connect with people on a very basic level. This is not to say that leaders do not possess charisma. Yet charisma can be seen as more of a personality trait. Furthermore, reliance on charisma to affect change depends on an individual’s ability to move people based on appeals to the ego, which has nothing to do with integrity. In my estimation depending on charisma is a slippery slope that leads to manipulation and misuse of power.

What’s My Experience Been With Leadership?

To return to the topic of influence, over my lifetime I have followed many in leadership positions. Rather than appeal to mine or other followers’ reason and sensibility, they sought influence from can be viewed as questionable motives. Whether that is owing to a general lack of faith in people or the ease at which it could be done with significant effectiveness, I know not which. However, what has been clearly and consistently demonstrated is as follows. The leader that cultivates an inner circle of easily swayed people, afraid to speak their minds or have an independent opinion, without fear of retribution, disparagement or sabotage; demonstrates in himself a lack of character, inner strength and integrity. Those that hold positions of authority and exemplify this strategy are destined to fail in truly influencing their followers and thus, as a leader.

What Factors Impact Influence?

Maxwell outlines six factors that affect the ability to influence. They include: character, relationships, knowledge, intuition,  experience, and ability. I believe the most important is character. Without character the ability to trust is weakened and resistance builds in the followers. Next, the power of relationships cannot be understated. If an individual has difficulty relating to others, then, doubt may creep into the mind of the followers questioning whether the leader truly represents their best interest. When a person in a leadership position does not possess inner integrity then they often display an outer rigidity in an attempt to bully people into following them. In addition, once one has garnered a reputation for treating people poorly or without compassion; it further impairs the leader’s ability to influence. Under this type of leadership people will follow out of deference to the position rather than respect for and influence of the leader.

This is Above Your Pay Grade!

Similarly, knowledge is important only so long as it is used properly. In organizations today a premium is placed on withholding information and specific knowledge from the lower tier workers. There are terms like “need to know basis” and concepts such as “that information is above your pay grade”. In Ken Blanchard’s Gung Ho! this point is illustrated in the concept of the Way of the Beaver. The Way of the Beaver outlines how the use of  knowledge to empower team members goes a long way toward increasing productivity, creating by in, and a owner’s mentality in followers. As important, the ability to intuit underlying trends in an organization and make adjustments is a crucial skill for a leader to possess. Further, experience in the area that one is seeking to influence is pivotal toward gaining support for the leader because it gives them the confidence that she knows where she is going because she has been their before. This is an area where many leaders excel. By utilizing stories, they are able to relay complex ideas and concepts of their own experiences rather than issuing edicts. Finally, the ability of the leader to execute their vision is requisite  to being able to pull all these areas together as influence.

For more information on where your leadership influence is currently request a free assessment.


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