by Jim Bruce
Leaders must be men and women who influence others to enable them to become more effective. In her essay Five Principles to Follow If You Want to Influence Others,1 Amy Glass, writes “No matter your role, influence is key to solving problems and making things happen. … [T]his means persuading people to help you affect change, implement key decisions and create buy-in around your ideas.” Influence is often contrasted to manipulation which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means to “control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly of unscrupulously.” Influence is not manipulation.
In the MOR Leaders Programs, the topic of influence is first introduced as an outcome of building relationships.2 Since leadership is not a solo activity, by investing time in building and maintaining relationships you create built-in networks of individuals available to support you in your endeavors. However, your leadership will often need to range far beyond the group you lead or your existing networks. Thus, our circle of influence needs to extend beyond those individuals who are included in our formal networks.
It’s often been said that “a leader is always on stage.” That means that the leader is often in a position of positively or negatively influencing the behavior of others. If, for example, I’m seen by others as not delivering on my commitments or taking ethical short-cuts, they may think negatively of me and be less likely to be positively influenced to support or become involved in my initiatives in the future. Or, they may be influenced by my actions and take short-cuts themselves. Neither of these is helpful.
Dan Pink, author and speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, writes, in his book To Sell Is Human,3 that leaders spend 40% of their day, directly or indirectly, influencing. If we spend this much of our time in this activity, we should work to get really good at it. Amy Glass1 suggests five key principles we should be employing to become really good.
Brent Gleeson, Navy SEAL, author, and speaker, has a similar list in his essay, “Leadership and the 7 I’s for Influencing Others”5
The suggestions that Amy Glass and Brent Gleeson propose you take will help you become more influential. Said even more simply, begin to take more interest in the people around you. Let them know that you know they exist. Smile. Say hello, or good morning/afternoon. Engage in conversation at the coffee machine or in the hallways. Let people get to know you. Be genuinely interested in them. Build casual and deep relationships. Be interested in what others are working on.
All this will enable you to become more influential, be seen more as a leader, and make renewed progress along your leadership journey.
Make it a great week for you and your team. . . . jim
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates. He previously was Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Vice President for Information Systems and CIO at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.