Leadership and the art of influence

One of the frequent challenges I hear in leadership development sessions is that even after they have  agreed something as a team, people want to renegotiate or that a leader struggles to gain alignment with their team or with stakeholders.

This is about influence and influence is at the very heart of leadership.

Let us start with what influence is not.  Influence is not getting people to do things that serve your personal priorities, prejudices or ego needs, that is manipulation.  There is no doubt that manipulative characters can get people (even strong people) to do things that are against their moral code or even interests.

By contrast influence is about listening, explaining, connecting, building trust and negotiating such people change the way they think or act.  For a leader influence is used to align people to the course of action that delivers the greatest sustainable value to the organisation.

Here we are talking about influence not manipulation.

The most influential leaders have a strong sense of purpose, which they communicate clearly.  A purpose that others identify with and in turn enrol more people to.  Vision for how the purpose is realised is much more open to debate and interpretation by the followers – but the purpose is non-negotiable and is fully owned and embodied by the leader – even if the leader is not it’s author.

The most influential leaders also have a strong code.  They have clear boundaries of behaviour and process that clarify how things are done and not done.  The influential leader will both embody and enforce the code consistently and repeatedly.  This will mean enrolling the team in the code so that everyone is committed to the same boundaries and then reminding people quickly if the code is broken, including themselves.

The most influential leaders are excellent in communication and integrity.  Their words, their decisions and their actions are all completely aligned with their purpose and their code – even when it is uncomfortable or it puts them in a minority.  Influential leaders use words and language with great skill and intentionality.  They are also highly self aware realising the impact of every mood, word or action on those around them and the effect that people and events have on them.

The most influential leaders are humble it is much easier to follow people we identify with than people who set themselves apart as an elite.   Their humility helps them to be excellent listeners who are able to understand the inner reality maps of others to better understand how to communicate with them.

The most influential leaders nurture their most influential followers.  Without followers leaders are just disconnected voices.  The best leaders have excellent followers because they are excellent themselves.  They deliberately recruit and nurture a diverse set  of followers some of whom they disagree with quite profoundly – they do this because they recognise the value of diversity of thought in formulating the best solutions and strategies.

Leadership is a choice and not an appointment.  Just because someone has the title of “leader” does not mean they are one.  Equally, there are many leaders who have not yet been given the title.  Leadership is non hierarchical.

The first person a leader needs to be able to lead is themselves.  To do this they need to have the self awareness to be able to notice, interpret and regulate their own emotions.  Leadership is first and continuously a journey of self discovery.

Leadership is challenging.  The rewards are seeing individuals that you have nurtured achieve far more than they thought they were capable of.  The rewards are seeing teams align and pull together to achieve something amazing.  The rewards are seeing an organisation creating value for itself by creating value for it’s stakeholders.

Leadership is a team sport.  Leaders do not achieve greatness on their own.  They must have some excellent support and followership.  I don’t believe there are any world class players in any field who manage it without some coaching or mentoring.  Learning only by trial and error or experience is just too slow.  Most leaders have to be specialists in their filed and don’t have the bandwidth to also be specialists in leadership.  Great leaders need the help of specialists who study leadership to guide and support them through it’s challenges.

Holos has a wealth of such specialist  leadership coaches with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders.  Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Holos believes that change is easy and this is true when the right process is followed. We all know from our own experience that some changes have been easy and others have been hard. What Holos has done is to distil the essence of what makes change easy into a process and it is that process that we bring to our clients.

For any organisation that needs to engage it’s culture with change, whether it is because of innovation, competition or regulation, Holos can help to make that change easy.

To help make using Holos easy we offer inspiring standalone sessions on Megatrends, Leadership, Culture and Change that give organisations a chance to see us in action and helps to get a wider process started.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com


Neil Crofts

+447803 774239


About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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2 Responses to Leadership and the art of influence

  1. Hans Haringa says:

    Hi Neil

    Very well written! Leadership = Communication. Only through communication against the backdrop of a purpose, communication in the widest sense of the word and practiced as described here, leadership gets expressed.

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