The Law of Influence
|From Loudly Outspoken|
The second law is the Law of Influence. "If you don't have influence, you will never be able to lead others" is a line from the book; which makes perfect sense. Leadership is influence: nothing more, nothing less. To have influence means to act as a force on the actions of others. People do what you ask of them because you have influence (force/power).
When you Google influence, you will find links to six types of influence, or twelve types of influence, or a hundred types of influences, and everybody tries to sound like an expert. Honestly, I try to avoid getting bogged down in the definitions. You need to build respect among your team, whether it is from position, likeability, expertise, reward, or punishment (you might be able to figure out where this comes from, search for forms of power...). Okay, okay, so I do classify... a little bit.
The problem is that influence takes a lifetime to build and seconds to destroy (just like respect and reputation... now I need to find a word that starts with "r" that means influence). Some of the most powerful types of influence exist because the leader has proven himself or herself.
Think about the people that have influence in your life. The ones with the strongest influence are probably the people closest to you, that have earned your respect and which have proven to be wise enough to give good counsel. The ones with the weakest influence may have influence solely by position, and you are more concerned about their negative impact on your life than how you can help the them accomplish anything (think pointy-haired boss in Dilbert).
In my life, I've often found myself with influence over groups. Most of the time in my professional life it started out because of position. I had rank, or a title that "authorized" me to make decisions. Over time, in most of those roles, the team grew to respect my abilities and I could lead in my own right. You realize you have influence when people are following you and they have no reason to other than you are heading in the right direction (or as much as I hate to say it, at least you are heading in a direction).
In other areas of my life, I've earned influence with groups because I have goals and can identify tasks; provide direction. BUT I let my team know that I appreciate the work they are doing, and often, unless the "how" is critically important (or a moral issue), I typically let the team decide that part. I've found that it is a balancing act, but the results are worth the effort.
Now, for the leaders reading this, honestly, take a step back and look at your team and how they respond to you. Hopefully, the team is respectful, responsive, and effective. If the people are eager to help, and they don't grumble, then you are in a good position.
However, if the team avoids contact with you, grumbles about the assignments, and everything takes twice as long as it should; then you are probably either losing or lost influence with the team. That situation needs to be addressed.
So, how do you build influence? A lot of it is how you treat people. I've often talked about the power of recognition, but when you provide recognition, you often gain influence. People want to work with/for someone that recognizes hard work. If you treat them well, it is another influence builder.
Additionally, a leader should have goals and expectations, which are realistic (they can be difficult and realistic). The more often the goals are reached, expectations met, then the more influence you build.
My final piece of advice on the subject. Never settle for position as your primary source of force. Find your influence, and make sure it grows. If you are leading by title alone, you aren't leading.