Invisible Power: Leadership Influence [part I]

by Rick Forbus, Ph.D.

Influence is the leadership ingredient most ascendant leaders aspire for. Several leadership gurus of our modern times have managed to write volumes on this authority effect, Leadership Influencecompletely repackaging and remixing its meaning and usage to seed their new books. Influence is found in ancient writings of history, religion and politics. Is it something we can learn or is it only endowed upon some “chosen few” through genetic happenchance?

Dale Carnegie was one of the moderns that spoke of this word of which became a topical forerunner of so many of the recent writings. Wikipedia says this about Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the first best-selling self-help books ever published. Written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936, it has sold 15 million copies worldwide. I think Mr. Carnegie and his premises about influence have surely shown the interest in the topic. Furthermore, this topic today is just as vital and possibly more needful in business and organizational life as in 1936.

In Success magazine online an unknown author writes this about influence:

How to Gain the Power of Influence

Jim Rohn tells us we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. The people we spend our time with determine what conversations dominate our attention, and what observations, attitudes and opinions we repetitively are introduced to.

Your associations don’t shove you in a direction; they nudge you ever so slightly over time. The rest of that Jim Rohn lesson is this: You will have the combined attitude, health and income of the five people you hang around the most.

The article continues with these ideas:

Evaluate and shift your associations into 3 categories:

  1. Disassociation– There are some people you might need to break away from completely. This might not be an easy step to take, but it’s essential. You have to make the hard choice not to let certain negative influences affect you anymore. Decide the quality of life you want to have, and then surround yourself with the people who represent and support that vision.
  2. Limited Associations– There are some people who you can spend three hours with, but not three days. Others you can spend three minutes with, but not three hours. Decide how much you can “afford” to be influenced, based on how those people represent themselves.
  3. Expanded Associations– Whatever area of your life you want to see improvement in, find those who represent the success you want, the parenting skills you want, the relationship you want, the lifestyle you want, and spend more time with them. Join organizations, clubs, businesses and health clubs where these people are and make friends.

Associations are both subtle and powerful.     Jim Rohn

In coaching sessions, I use some different language to describe what the article speaks to, but the power of influence is still the same. Influence can mean:

  • Effect on something (someone)
  • Power
  • Special advantage
  • Somebody who can sway another
  • Control or authority
  • Weight over someone or some circumstance

Practically every coaching conversation will loop back to how to influence another person, a culture or an outcome. Of course, the conversation also explores the other side of influence; how the coaching client is being influenced, whether for the good or bad of desired outcomes.

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.     George Eliot

Leaders use influence. Some use it wisely. Others do not. Influence can be obtained by most anyone who intentionally goes after it: good or bad. Influence, although not always power, is a lot like power. It has to be used carefully and precisely and with great discernment, to be successful. So, I include one of my favorite stories:

Hank, a landscape contractor, had his first full-fledged job. He didn’t want to appear to be just a rank amateur, so he tried to be nonchalant and casual as he spoke with his first real customer. The customer was an old farmer who needed to have some stumps removed. So, the young contractor decided he should blast the stumps out of the ground. Since the farmer was watching his every move, the contractor took great care in measuring the sticks of dynamite and the fuses- even though he really didn’t know what he was doing. When all was set he breathed a prayer that he had enough dynamite packed under each stump to do the job, but without blowing the farmer and himself to kingdom come. The moment of truth came, and the young contractor tried to look confident to the farmer as he pushed down the plunger. A stump rose high in the air and arched magnificently over towards his pickup truck and landed right on the roof of the cab, completely demolishing the truck. The farmer turned to Hank and said, “Son, you didn’t miss it by much, just a few feet. With a little bit more practice you’ll be able to land that sucker in the truck bed every time.”

If you found these tips from Rick Forbus, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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