“Leadership is influence” –John C. Maxwell
Transformative and resilient leaders has according to Brené Brown three things in common; “First, they recognise the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviours are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception. And, third, they have the ability and willingness to lean in to discomfort and vulnerability”. (Rising strong 2015, Brené Brown)
As a leader you are in a unique position to make people interested in their work. A leader’s role among other things is to make your workers interested and inspired. We influence others most of the time in our life, both in public as well as in the private atmosphere. Some common examples are when we are making a presentation, nodding our heads, sharing our ideas with a colleague or customer or shaking hands.
Terry R Bacon, has written the book; Elements of Influence, where he demystifies all the fundamentals of influence, and gives us the basics we need to know (if we are of interest) to generate more positive outcomes both in the organisations as well as in the private life.
‘Influence is the art of getting others to take your lead – to believe, think in a way you want them to believe, think in a way you want them to think, or do something you want them to do’
Can you become better in influencing other ? Everybody can be better at influencing, however it depends on how you choose to look at the world, and if you are open to alternative ways of seeing the world and accept other peoples meanings and opinions, this should help you on your way. Bacon; “Most people do not naturally excel at influencing, in part because influencing effectively requires a great deal of adaptability, perceptiveness, and insight into other people, and in part because influence has cultural variations, and we learn to influence almost exclusively from within our own cultural lens”.
Experiencing living in many different cultures during childhood, makes us more humble and understandable towards people in other cultures. Bacon; “Influencing effectively requires an adaptive mindset, and influencing effectively across cultures require a global mindset. To some extent, a global mindset is a product of your psychology, your willingness to accept others as they are instead of wishing them to be more like yourself. And it is a product of both self-acceptance and acceptance of others”.
Kraut et al, has some insights about establishing a strong culture; “Culture is intended to do what other aspects of the leading role do for individuals and small groups, encourage the best efforts of people, by aligning their interests with the needs of the organisation. In contrast to decision – making as a form of controlling, culture is decision shaping as a form of leading”. (My previous article;Organizational Culture)
Bacon; “What works in Mexico may not work as well in Malaysia, just as the openness and informality typical in Australia, even in business settings, may not be as acceptable in Germany or the Netherlands (In fact, it could cause suspicion). Influence effectiveness depends in part on the conventions, values, and beliefs prevalent in every culture”.
As a leader, the way you choose to influence other people can make a big difference, both in positive ways as in negative ways. Bacon, tells us that leaders lead by mobilising people. They inspire them to follow, and show them the possibilities as well as motivates them to realise those possibilities. Bacon; “They energise and focus people in ways that fulfil their dreams, give them a sense of purpose, and leave them with a profound sense of accomplishment when the work is done”. Bacon, makes us aware that leaders encourage new ways of looking at situations, and by doing so, they give people the words and the courage to make those new ways their own. Bacon; “The best leaders are teachers, mentors, and role models – and they accomplish the vast majority of their work through influence, not authority”.
James Borg, illustrates skills with good magicians who are masters in loosely called people skills. Why ? They had to persuade their audience. First the audience’s attention, second they would use the ‘right’ words, listen carefully to any volunteers and make them remember the things they wanted them to remember. The magician would work out the type of person they were dealing with, and observe the body language and get the trust from the audience. This is a great demonstration of people skills in action. (My previous article;The Art of Persuasion)
Ethical influence is without forcing, and authority and the person being influenced is open to the influence and has a choice and right to say yes or no.
Bad and unethical influence happens by people with no scruples, and is destructive. Bacon; “Throughout human history, tyrants, dictators, and thugs have known that people can control others and impose their will – sometimes over millions of people – through force, brutality, intimidation, and murder. In The Prince, Machiavelli said that it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
Dark – side influence tactics take away people’s legitimate right to say no, force them to comply with something contrary to their wishes or best interests. mislead them, or make them act when they would otherwise choose not to.
Leonardo Da Vinci astutely observed that the average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eat without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragnance, and talks without thinking. (My previous article;The Art of Persuasion)
Here Da Vinci gives us a wake-up call, and makes us aware of the importance of taking care of each other.
Inspiration is a key-element in leading people, as well as conveying energy and enthusiasm. Bacon; “Dull lethargic speakers leave people unengaged and unconvinced. To light a fire, you need some spark. It’s extraordinary that listening makes such a difference, too. Great and inspirational leaders are good listeners as well as great speakers”. No doubt, effective listening is how masters of inspirational appeals develop their insight into what others value, and knowing what others value enables them to appeal to the right ones.
In recent years, social scientists led by Todd Trash, have demystified the phenomenon of inspiration; “At its core, inspiration is what happens when a person feels stimulated to bring some new idea to life after becoming spontaneously aware of new possibilities”. (Harvard business review; You don’t need charisma to be inspiring, 2015)
Bacon makes us aware that leadership has changed, earlier leadership may have been about commanding and controlling, but not anymore. “Leaders don’t accomplish their goals by directing others to perform tasks, and they don’t inspire engagement and commitment by using the heavy hammer of power. Instead they articulate values and vision, appeal to those values in their communications, model the behaviours they want others to embody, and teach others how to accomplish the goals”.
Leaders need to act as good role models or as a teacher, coach, or counsellor. Bacon; “The skills most closely correlated with effective modelling reinforce the importance of teaching and coaching: Supporting and encouraging others, taking the initiative to show others how to do things, building rapport and trust, speaking conversationally, showing genuine interest in others, logical reasoning, behaving self-confidently, and listening”.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Inger Lise E. Greger, MSc. Change Management