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The Influencers: The Top Five Reasons Leaders Lack Influence

| February 2, 2010

by Jim Bruce

If you are leading a change initiative, then you must be an influencer for that initiative to be successful.  Yet studies have shown that only one in five leaders are able to influence positive change in a way that it lasts.  What’s going on?

Today’s reading is “The Influencers:  The Top Five Reasons Leaders Lack Influence”.  In this piece, Ron McMillan and Joseph Grenny, the authors who also wrote “Influencer:  The Power to Change Anything,” provide five reasons why leaders lack influence:

1.  Leaders do not believe that it is their job to influence.  (I certainly hope that is not the case for IT Leaders alumni.)  Leaders see their job as strategy, as selecting winning products and services, as engaging stakeholders and major customers.  Few understand that their success, or failure, lies in influencing the behavior of those who execute the strategy.  The most influential leaders spend 50 to 75 of their time thinking about and actively influencing those responsible for delivering results.

2.  Leaders lack the skills required to influence.  The study found that only one in twenty had a thought-out plan for influencing change.

3.  Leaders often confuse talking with influencing.  Verbal persuasion is rarely adequate.

4.  Leaders believe in silver bullets.  When leaders do attempt to influence behavior, they often look for a quick fix, believing that deeply ingrained bad habits can be changed by a simple action.  Research shows that this almost always fails.

5.  Leaders try to influence everyone.  Rather than spreading their influence equally across all their staff, influential leaders invest time and effort in their direct reports and the opinion leaders in the area of the change.  By doing so, they build trust with those individuals who are most closely associated with the change.

To be able to positively influence someone, you must have a positive relationship with that person.  That’s why building relationships is so important.  In the Leaders Program we point out that relationships begin with someone initiating a contact;  that it grows by inquiring, by mutually learning about the other;  and that it matures by investing in the interests of the other individual.  As the relationship matures, trust and empathy are build and we naturally influence one another.

So, let’s all get to work on building and strengthening relationships.  They will provide a solid foundation for the work we will be doing.  .  .  .  .   jim

African Proverb:  “If you wish to go quickly, go alone;  if you wish to go far, go together.”