Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leading through Long Term Influence

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “leader” as a person who has commanding authority or influence”. I would argue that in the 21st century it’s all about influence, not authority. If a leader only has authority and is unable to influence others, then his leadership will be short lived. And with the shortage of talent, leaders need to create sustainability in an organization.

Think about those leaders and individual contributors in your organization, whether for profit or not for profit, who may not have the title of VP, Director, or Manager yet they have followers because of their influence with others. These are the people who others listen to and respect but don’t have the title providing them with the authority to lead. They are able to use specific behaviors that align with the situation that will get others to change behaviors, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs and values.

What are the critical methods to leadership influence?

It is important to understand that influence much like leadership, is dependent on the situation that requires influence. It may be that you are trying to influence someone higher in the organization, a peer, or a direct report. All of these are different situations in themselves. Other types of situations where influence may be needed include:

• Changes to project plans 

• Support of proposals by upper management

• Agree to new assignments and tasks

• Provide necessary information in a timely fashion

• Stop ineffective or negative behaviors

 The Power Use Model outlined by Anita Hall, Extension Educator 
and Leverne Barrett, Extension Leadership Specialist of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, depicts someone’s choice of influence tactics in terms of the “softness” versus “hardness” of the tactic. The spectrum relates to the freedom the tactic leaves the person being influenced to decide either to yield or to resist the influence attempt: 

Hard tactics give individuals less freedom than soft tactics. They are perceived as more forceful and push the person to comply versus support. Hard tactics include “exchange,” “legitimating,” “pressure,” “assertiveness,” “upward appeal” and “coalitions.” Soft tactics are considered thoughtful and constructive, and pull the person to make the necessary change. Soft tactics include “personal appeal,” “consultation,” “inspirational appeal,” “ingratiation” and “rational persuasion.” It is important to note that soft tactics tend to provide more lasting change because they create an emotion of support versus compliance by the person being influenced.

And, there are certain methods when used to influence that are generally unsuccessful. These tactics are often associated with a leader who has the authority but lacks influence. Autocratic leaders will often make demands, threats or intimidation, which will generate short-term change but no support.

When would this tactic be useful? In an emergency, demands are often necessary. A leader needs to have people move quickly when the office is on fire or the plant has been exposed to dangerous chemicals.

Yet for the most part, when soft tactics are used more than hard tactics, such as demands and threats, a leader can build influence capital. From my experience with leaders, those who are highly influential use these two tactics more than others: 

• Inspirational appeal - a request or proposal that arouses emotions and enthusiasm by appealing to other’s values and ideals, or by increasing their confidence in being successful.

• Consultation- includes others’ in making a decision or planning how to implement a change that impacts them

So what if you’re a leader with authority, you’ve got the title, how do you know whether or not you have influence with the people you are leading? My suggestion to leaders is to start taking an audit of the methods they use to influence. How much time are they using the consultation and inspirational appeal methods to influence others? And if the percent is low, how are you going to increase your soft tactic influence?

For additional information on the Power Use Model read more.

 Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit http://www.executive-velocity.com/ or http://executivevelocityblog.com/ or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

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