E-Comp: Influence Predicts High Performance Leadership

Posted On: August 15, 2014 by: Doug Lundrigan

Emotional Competence:  Influence Predicts High Performance Leadership

 Do you know someone who has much authority but little influence?

I recall early in my career a would-be leader who had authority to direct the work activities of about 120 people.  His style was authoritarian and controlling.  He gave little trust or respect to others and received little trust or respect in return.  Within six months of having his directing role, nearly half the people had jumped ship, resulting in a devastating cost to the organization.  His influence had shrunk to be much smaller than his authority.  Sound familiar?

In contrast, I also recall a leader who seemed to genuinely care about us, put her own interests aside for the good of the team, sought the opinions of others, was supportive and encouraging, and had a grand vision of the excellent results we could achieve together.  People from other departments wanted to transfer in to be on her team.  Her influence expanded to include people she had no authority over.  I hope this also sounds familiar to you.

These cases show a stark difference between authority and influence.

Roots of Influence

“Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.“

Henry George (1839 – 1897)

In the 1990s some Italian researchers were mapping the brains of Macaque monkeys.  They noticed that the same area of the monkeys’ brains lit up when they watched the researchers eat lunch as when the monkeys themselves ate.  This was the discovery of mirror neurons, and the beginning of a deeper understanding of how we are all hard-wired to influence each other.

Macaque monkeys and Mirror Neurons

Macaque monkeys and Mirror Neurons

Much earlier organizational research had already concluded that individuals with leadership skills have social influence, and not necessarily because of the position they occupy (Bernard, 1938.)  Influence is a complex social interaction that varies by both the influencer’s methods, and the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators of those being influenced.

Yet as unique as we each are in giving and receiving influence, some methods of influence are surprisingly universal.  Abraham Lincoln captured it well in this statement:

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-31-32-pm“When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, kind unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted.  . . . If you (want to) win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.“

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

 In his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman revealed that in predicting the success of “those in technical professions, analytic thinking ranks third, after the ability to influence and the drive to achieve.  (Goleman, 2011).

Influence is a trait central to the Social Management competencies.   By expanding our Social Management competencies we will be able to expand our influence.

 By Doug Lundrigan, MBA


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