Invisible Power: Leadership Influence [part II]

by Rick Forbus, Ph.D.

The distance between greatness and mediocrity is not necessarily very far apart.

Invisible Power: Leadership InfluenceThe same is true when it comes to the use of influence. The distance between greatness and the overuse of influence is many times not so far apart. This delicate balance of influence is, in my opinion, what makes the great even greater and the great slip to become authoritarian.

An excerpt from an article about influence that speaks to the art of persuasion is helpful to examine here.

3 Universal Goals to Influence People

The art and science of persuasion is often discussed as though changing people’s minds is about using the right arguments, the right tone of voice or the right negotiation tactic. But effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations.

I’ve written about the “rule of reciprocity” before, but it may deserve some noting here, as well. When one considers that persuasion and influence are at least “kissing cousins” in the realm of leadership, reciprocity could be seen as a catalyst. Reciprocal behaviors have been researched and proven to provide the effect of influence on others. The power of doing even little things for others has been demonstrated time and again to elevate the effects of influence. Random acts of thoughtfulness and kindness, as well as, simple forms of recognition in the workplace become strong tools for the leader who wants to build influence.

You can never really live anyone else’s life, not even your child’s. The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you’ve become yourself.     Eleanor Roosevelt

My favorite synonym for influence is based on my belief that leaders these days should stand back from power and control. My interpretation of pure and clean influence comes from the definition of influence as, having an “effect on something or someone.” It can be defined, even more specifically, as a positive effect, when it is not malicious at all. Influence in its best version is empowering! Long-lasting influence comes from committing many consistent acts of kindness, productiveness and empowerment. If you as a leader want to scale your effectiveness with influence, check to see whom you have inspired and empowered to greatness. The most obvious and significant measure of this effect will be the “crown of greatness” that is seen in others’ accomplishments.

Don’t be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.     Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

In an article found on listening as an influence skill is discussed.

How to Use Your Ears to Influence People

Listen Up: being attentive to others’ needs allows you to wield more influence – By Tori Rodriquez

We tend to think of smooth talkers as having the most influence on others. Although the gift of gab is indeed important, being a good listener provides even more of an advantage, according to new research.

In a study from the June Journal of Research in Personality, former work colleagues rated participants on measures of influence, verbal expression and listening behavior. Results indicate that good listening skills had a stronger effect on the ratings of influence than talking did. The authors suggest that listening helps people obtain information and build trust, both of which can increase influence. “Expressive communication has received the lion’s share of attention in leadership work, but receptive behavior matters, too,” says study author Daniel Ames of Columbia University. The research also found that being good at both is better than being better at one or the other.

For those who wish for better listening skills, here are a few ways to do it well: don’t zone out or interrupt; be open to alternative points of view; incorporate details that someone said previously into a current conversation. Basically, pay attention.

To conclude this article some helpful encouragement may be in order. Start tomorrow working on your listening skills. How do you start? Try this practical list of tips to improve listening skills immediately and garner more influence:

  • Listen to understand context
  • Hearing does not mean that you understand so, listen to formulate conclusive evidence.
  •  Listen with your eyes and your emotions.
  • Listening should include questioning the speaker for clarity.

The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.     John Hancock

The power of influence is a transaction that needs both parties to become reality. The various ways a leader influences will increase their positive influence or decrease it. Maybe it’s time for you as a leader to intentionally shift your influence to the positive and empowering version. How can this shift happen? Intentional goal setting in this area will be helpful. It could be that an employee survey that includes questions about your influencing skills is in order. Should you hire an executive coach to work with you individually and engage with your team to better make these discoveries and bring solutions?

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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