The ability to influence is one of the essential skills for leaders at all levels. It’s more art than science, and it can be tough to get your arms around. But the bottom line is that influence matters.
In traditional hierarchical organizations, power is typically based on position. The higher you are on the organization chart, the more power you wield. There are clear, top-down rules where the person at the top calls the shots. The person with the power has the influence.
Today, organizations are moving toward flatter, matrixed and team-based models. The theory is that with change and complexity comes the need to be more nimble, more inclusive of diverse thought, and more collaborative. In this model, power is more about one’s ability to influence and get things done outside of traditional reporting lines. In other words, the person with the influence has the power.
Some of the ways to influence people are:
- Asserting: you insist that your ideas are heard and you challenge the ideas of others
- Convincing: you put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view
- Negotiating: you look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest
- Bridging: you build relationships and connect with others through listening understanding and building coalitions
- Inspiring: you advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared purpose and exciting possibilities
Each of these styles can be effective, depending upon the situation and people involved. A common mistake is to use a one-size-fits-all approach. Remember that influencing is highly situational.
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