All leaders face three realities; first, they cannot succeed without engaging others and convincing them to devote time, energy, and resources to the leader’s objectives. Second, leaders have no direct authority over most of the people they are attempting to engage and convince to follow. And third, even those people over whom leaders do have direct authority are less tolerant of a “command and control” way of being led.
In his book “How”, Dov Seidman writes, “The days of leading countries or companies via a one-way conversation are over. The old system of ‘command and control’- using carrots and sticks – to exert power over people is fast being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate’ – to generate power through people. Now you have to have a two-way conversation with your citizens or customers or employees.” Now leadership requires a capacity to engage others and influence how they direct their time, energy, and resources.
Influence is defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” Influence and leadership are connected. In our conversation about leadership, we have defined it as the capacity to impact and engage others in an important work that causes forward movement with positive effect. Leaders must be able to influence the character, development, and behavior of others. People respond to and engage with what satisfies their needs. People respond to leadership. Previously, I have cited Arie de Geus, author of “The Living Company,” who says that a primary role of leadership is to create the conditions in which people will “voluntarily give their best.” Leadership gets people to voluntarily give their best. People rarely give their best in a ‘command and control’ environment. Even if this was once the case, current events suggest that that world is slipping away.
The signs of leadership are Clarity of vision, mission, purpose, plan, metrics roles, etc., a positive Atmosphere, and Talent engaged and performing at a high level. When and where these conditions exist, peoples’ needs are being met by leadership. Seidman continues, “leadership itself must shift … from coercive or motivational leadership that uses sticks or carrots to extract performance and allegiance out of people to inspirational leadership that inspires commitment and innovation and hope in people.” When we create the conditions for success (Clarity, Atmosphere, and Talent), we are inspiring commitment and innovation and hope and making it possible for people to voluntarily give their best.
It is possible to lead in this way with without “authority.” What gives a person “authority” to provide leadership, to create the conditions for success? In short, nothing. Leaders see what is missing and work to fill the need, be it for clarity, a positive atmosphere, or talent development. This type of leadership is not given; it is claimed. This type of leadership is highly influential and is not based on “authority” or position.
Our ability to influence is tied directly to our level of trustworthiness. When we are recognized as sincere, reliable, competent, and concerned for others and something bigger than ourselves, we can wield tremendous influence. Our leadership is recognized and assessed on our ability to create clarity, shape a positive atmosphere, and develop talent in order to achieve business objectives. When we are leading in this way, we can be very influential and through our leadership enable people to self-motivate and “voluntarily give their best.” The result of this type of leadership and influence is alignment, engagement, and unified action. This type of influence enables us to “’connect and collaborate’ – to generate power through people.”