There can be no leadership without influence, because influencing is how leaders lead. In their classic book on leadership, Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus echo this point: “There is a profound difference between management and leadership,” they wrote, “and both are important. ‘To manage’ means ‘to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct.’ ‘Leading’ is ‘influencing, guiding in direction, course, action, opinion.’” They add that “an essential factor in leadership is the capacity to influence.”
Managers also use influence, of course, because only a fraction of managerial work can actually be accomplished through control and the use of authority. The aim of both managers and leaders is to accomplish an organization’s goals. Managers do it through
plans, organization, processes, task assignments, measurements, and so on, but they must also direct people and manage their performance, and you can’t manage people solely through command-and-control methods. People are human beings, not machines, mechanical parts, or assembly lines. They respond best when they are treated like human beings, they work best when they have a voice in how the work is done, and they remain loyal and engaged when they feel respected, trusted, well informed, and cared for. That’s why the best managers also lead, and they lead through the social and emotional approaches to influencing, not just the rational approaches.
Leaders lead by mobilizing people around a compelling vision of the future, by inspiring them to follow in the leader’s footsteps. They show people what’s possible and motivate them to make those possibilities real. They energize and focus people in ways that fulfill their dreams, give them a sense of purpose, and leave them with a profound sense of accomplishment when the work is done. Leaders lead by modeling ways of thinking or acting and by encouraging new ways of looking at situations, and by so doing they give people the words and the courage to make those new ways their own. The best leaders are teachers, mentors, and role models–and they accomplish the vast majority of their work through influence, not authority.
In many cases, leaders and managers are one in the same. The division vice president who leads a team of people to accomplish what they might not have thought possible is also a manager. The manager who oversees a team’s task performance but also looks after the team members’ career planning and coaches them on developing their skills is also a leader. The art of management and leadership is to know when to act as a manager and when to act as a leader, when to use authority and when to use influence, when to ask and when to tell, when to take over and when to let go. In every case, it is crucial for leaders and managers to understand the range of influence techniques they can use, know when and how to use them, build their power bases so that they have the capacity to be influential, and sharpen their skills so that they can influence people effectively.
What is Influence?
To be an effective leader, it is necessary to influence others to support and implement decisions that the leader and group members perceive are necessary. Without influence, leadership does not occur. In other words, leadership is the act of influencing outcomes.
Influence can be with people, things or events. Strength and effectiveness of influence can vary. The process the leader uses to influence someone can take a variety of forms.
Influence is defined as “a force one person (the agent) exerts on someone else (the target) to induce a change in the target, including changes in behaviors, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs and values” and “the ability to affect the behavior of others in a particular direction.” To influence, a leader uses strategies or tactics, actual behaviors designed to change another person’s attitudes, beliefs, values or actions.
How Does An Influence Tactic Work?
Leaders tend to use different tactics and to have somewhat different objectives depending on the direction of the influence. For instance, this typically can be seen when a leader attempts to influence someone above them or below them.
An important reason for choosing a specific influence tactic may depend on what the leader wishes to accomplish. For example, a manager in an organization may want to influence employees to:
- Modify their plans and schedules
- Approve and support manager plans and proposals
- Accept and carry out new assignments
- Provide relevant and timely information
- Discontinue inappropriate behavior
In a community or volunteer setting, a leader may wish to influence participants to:
- Increase their commitment toward a goal
- Influence the outcome of a decision
- Increase pressure to get something done
- Gain support for a specific project
Types of Influence Tactics
The Power Use Model predicts someone’s choice of influence tactics in terms of its “softness” versus “hardness.” This dimension is defined in terms of how much freedom a tactic leaves the person to decide either to yield or to resist the influence attempt:
Hard tactics leave individuals less freedom than soft tactics. Hard tactics include “exchange,” “legitimating,” “pressure,” “assertiveness,” “upward appeal” and “coalitions.” These behaviors are perceived as more forceful and push the person to comply. Soft tactics, on the other hand, are influence behaviors which are considered thoughtful and constructive. Soft tactics include “personal appeal,” “consultation,” “inspirational appeal,” “ingratiation” and “rational persuasion.”
Soft tactics allow the person to be influenced with more latitude in deciding whether or not to accept the influence than do hard tactics. Hard influence tactics can place more strain on the relationship between the influencing person and the target, especially when the action was unwarranted.
Influence tactics can also be divided into “push” and “pull” tactics. Both categories can get results. Push tactics tend to get short-term results, while pull tactics garner support rather than compliance.
Examples of the Effective Use of Influence
Here are three scenarios in which influence could be used. For each situation, ask the following questions:
- What influence tactic would be the most effective?
- What influence tactic would be the least effective?
- What is the objective of the influence?
Situation #1: You have heard several accounts from reliable sources that one of your top performers in your department has been sexually harassing a coworker. You would hate to lose this employee, but you strongly disapprove of people who abuse their power. You want the behavior stopped before the company is slapped with a lawsuit.
Rational persuasion and pressure are the most effective in this particular situation. This is an example where a soft or pull tactic would be ineffective. This situation does not allow for the individual to have a choice. Action is needed now. The objective of the influence is to stop the behavior.
Situation #2: You are concerned that the other managers in your somewhat conservative company have not completely grasped the need to be more competitive. Even though the firm’s profit and loss statement and other statistics have been slipping steadily, most of them do not yet perceive a need for change. You want to encourage them to implement a Total Quality program.
The objective in this scenario is to influence the employees to see the need for increased motivation for improved economic gain. Personal and inspirational appeals could provide the greatest effect as these create long-term behavior change. Hard or push tactics would be the least effective, and could lead to a further decline in motivation.
Situation #3: You are the chairperson of the Administrative Council for your local community organization. Looking at the end of year financial report, you realize that the budget must be increased by $5,000 to meet an increase in insurance premiums. You must address the entire membership to influence increased monetary giving.
Increased financial giving is the objective of this influence. Rational persuasion and inspirational appeals could serve to influence the membership of the benefits of the increased monetary needs. Hard or push tactics would be the least effective. It could anger the members into not providing any financial help.
People who aim for a positive group outcome need to diagnose the situation and determine if a hard/push tactic or a soft/pull tactic would be appropriate. Mastering the art of influence is a key leadership component. A successful leader will understand what influence tactic works best for the situation and the person or group. If the desired results aren’t obtained, perhaps the wrong tactic is being used. Effective leadership and influence has available a wide array of tactics. Too often potential leaders use the same tactic over and over, getting few results because the tactic was applied inappropriately. If ideas are to be accepted toward a given change, leaders must learn the art of influence.
This Post is part of a Leadership and Management development training program. How to be become a better leader
If you like this Article Subscribe here or comment below.