…Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. were great leaders. They had control of virtually no one, yet their influence changed the course of history.
Michael Hyatt, Former CEO – Thomas Nelson Publishers
We all know the feeling. It’s the gut-felt twinge of impending loss. It’s the fear associated with giving up a person or group, handing over a project and forfeiting a decision within our span of control. It’s often a familiar scene as we watch other leaders, and sometimes even see ourselves, slip into the sinkhole of control.
Do You Want Influence or Control?
What most leaders really want is to influence others, which is earned from power. We want to be empowered and to empower others. Often this journey is filled with the temptation to keep or take control of any number of situations within our line of sight. However, grabbing more control doesn’t pave the road to power, and here’s why.
The need for control is born from insecurity and fear. When a leader’s source of energy is based on fear of loss, it’s about the leaders’ needs – not what is best for others or the organization. To fill this inner void, leaders strive to have more meetings, larger teams, a different reporting relationship, or more decision rights – at their gain yet at the expense of others. This is a myth because you can’t truly control anyone but yourself.
The more we attempt to increase our control, the more resistance we receive. Many of us have felt this as parents. As often said in sales circles, “People don’t like to be sold, they like to buy.” Whether in a personal or professional realm, trying to force control over an area or person produces the opposite of the desired effect. Potential allies and champions can become undesired adversaries.
Control is situational. It’s a reaction to drive a specific behavior or outcome. One issue at a time, a controlling leader works to manipulate the desired result. Power is pervasive. It transcends having to micro-manage or achieve a one and done motive. However, when a leader has earned the right to influence, the impact is predetermined at a visionary level. There’s a strategic and cultural stickiness that seldom wavers.
Do you see yourself in any of the above descriptions? Would having more influence up your leadership quotient? These three steps will start you on your way:
1- Focus on improving yourself. Recognize the best and most influential leaders are vulnerable and engage in development and career long learning practices. Modeling at this level demonstrates a depth of humility to others that is attractive and alluring.
2- Nurture all relationships, not just the ones perceived to advance control. Often there is a misallocation of effort as an attempt to gain the favor of only the top leaders. Genuine interaction with others across the entire organization is crucial. Focusing on helping others at all levels get what they want will lead to the ability to influence others.
3- Believe in and practice the law of abundance. Let go by trusting there is enough for everyone– enough work, enough recognition and enough room at the table for power and influence. The supply is ample and available to those who are wise enough to give up control to gain it.
In order to have influence, you have to be willing to be influenced.