Monday, January 5, 2015

Is Leadership all about Influencing

The great leaders operate with the core principles: Authenticity, Boldness, Creativity, Simplicity, and Speed.

Often people think that leadership is the result of specific traits of a person, others feel it’s all about tough-mindedness—the ability to gain control through force of will. The thing about a leader is that you can have a positive or a negative impact on the circumstances. How you act as a leader will influence the behavior of your team, your organization or even beyond. But is leadership only about influence?

First of all, you have to understand there are leadership keys you can master as a leader...your thinking, your emotions, your behavior and the actions you take. People then decide whether they want to follow or not! You then have to understand that the role of a leader is to create a high-performance environment where success is inevitable. Combined with the role, the purpose of leadership is to awaken possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results.

It is not possible to separate influence from leadership. Influence and persuasion are so closely linked they are probably the same thing. To lead, you need to persuade others to follow, they will not follow unless they are influenced by the leaders' persuasion. There are various levels at which leadership is exercised. At its core leadership is about influencing people to act in a particular way. What leadership focuses on is about leading with purpose and intent to achieve particular objectives. Leadership is about identifying and envisioning a worthy objective, and engaging people to work towards that objective. Management is focused on organizing the resources to achieve the desired result. The two are not mutually exclusive, and a good leader will be involved in some management activities, a good manager will also exercise leadership to progress towards the greater goal.

The great leaders operate with the core principles: Authenticity, Boldness, Creativity, Simplicity, and Speed. They are authentic. They understand themselves and have a story to tell, they have an authentic leadership brand, they build on strengths, they are comfortable with themselves, they share their leadership philosophy, they build trust, they are positive, healthy and in pursuit of happiness. The leaders will enlighten the team to achieve their aspiration. This is another important part of leadership which is developing followers. A good leader should do both; inspire and influence the team wholeheartedly to achieve the goal of the organization and develop you to your fullest potential.

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else do something you need to be done, and they want to do it!" (Eisenhower). The quote speaks to the essence of leadership. If others won't do what you need to be done, then you aren't a leader (except perhaps in title only) as the word "leader" implies followers to accomplish the goal. So then, the question is how does one get others to WANT to do the task? Therein lies the issue of inspiration and influence. If you can't inspire them first, and then influence them to take up the task, then how will you do it? Coercion only works while you're looking and it implies threats, fear, and negativity. Most of the people do not like, want or respect that kind of motivation.

The context of influence is from influence being part of the definition of leadership to influence being a characteristic of a good leader. Influencing others, inspiring commitment, and improving the organization cannot be accomplished by a leader lacking a vision (mission, goal, etc). Leaders without vision do not influence at all, positively or negatively, for the long term. Positive influence is very temporary from a leader who lacks vision or poor behavior only makes the negative influences. Either way, this makes for a poor leader. Influence can be used to define a good leader who all have a vision and influence with that vision or toward that vision or to contribute to that vision. As influence can generate good or bad deeds in leadership regardless of vision. Just take some historic examples where vision, influence, and leadership were used for good purposes or bad ones too. Therefore, "influence" is just a part of the whole personality of a leader.

On one hand, leadership becomes more open and omnipresent in digital era because the hierarchy of an organization is flatter due to the latest digital disruption. On the other hand, the leadership bar is raised because the leadership reputation can not be built through certain static credential or a few spotlight moments, the world has become more connected and transparent, good leadership means the continuous improvements, the communication consistency and the context of influence need to be made via the clear vision, empathetic communication, and cross-functional, cross-geographic and cross-generational collaboration.


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