“The key to leadership is influence not authority.”~Kenneth Blanchard
There is a leadership fact that I always share with clients. The higher up the food chain you go in an organization, the more your job is not about doing specific tasks. In fact, at times it’s not about “doing” anything. It’s about influencing. Influence is the key to getting things done, getting your ideas across, and honestly, getting ahead.
You can exert authority and maybe you’ll get people to comply. But chances are their hearts won’t be in their compliance and their engagement and commitment will be less than ideal. I don’t know about you, but when I do something because I have to, or because I’m afraid of the stick (as in the carrot and the stick), I resent the process, the person, and often the outcome. And my effort stinks!
Research shows that the carrot doesn’t work that well either. That offering me incentives to act in a certain way again doesn’t guarantee my engagement or commitment. Or my best effort. So what we’re left with is influence.
Influencing others can seem difficult and it does take effort. And time. We have to care what other people think and how they feel. We have to ask them what’s important to them and engage them. We have to put ourselves in their shoes, in their situation, to see the world (and our idea) from their perspective. And we have to be willing to address what’s important to them and take their feelings into account. We have to do our research. We have to, at times, take the long route to reaching our goal, so that we set aside time to make sure they’re with us. And behind us. And supporting us.
This effort and time yields influence – and leadership.
Where are you overusing authority? Where do you need to influence? Take the time to learn about the people you need to influence.
How do you successfully yield influence?
Please leave a comment to share.
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I my experience, exercising influence (as opposed to exercising authority) involves careful, active listening, a skill often understandably shortchanged by people who are overscheduled and understaffed and who may not feel like they have time to listen vs. issuing directives. This is a common and particularly acute problem for people in organizations experiencing RIFs and other cost reductions which result in increased demands placed on remaining staff. In those circumstances, of course directive managment seems more efficient and often is. But making time to listen, understand and influence will ultimately yield better, more long-lasting results and more motivated colleagues. It’s not easy, but things that make a big difference rarely are. And influence is more versatile than directive management. Directive management usually only goes down the org chart while influence goes up, down and sideways. Plus, ask yourself how much better YOU felt when you have successfully influenced a person, team or situation. My guess is that it was far more rewarding than firing off a few e-mails issuing instructions.
Thanks for your thoughts Dan. It is so true that when we are pressed for time, even if only in our own minds, we’re more likely to exercise authority just to “get things done.” Thanks for calling this out as a reminder. I suppose when we are pressed for time is the exact moment that we need to listen, include, and influence!