Influence and Leadership

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.

[Excerpted from Terry R. Bacon, Elements of Influence:  The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead (AMACOM Books, July 2011)].  Copyright 2011 by Terry R. Bacon.  All rights reserved.

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