Leading Through Influence


Organizations often find themselves on the hunt to “get better.”  The search for ways to reduce turnover, create stronger leaders, reach indicators, and increase morale feels more like a life-long journey rather than a destination for many businesses today. Some organizations start by finding existing leaders who are already doing a handful of these things well. They study them, learn their processes, and attempt to replicate it company-wide hoping other managers and departments follow suit. Other organizations choose to hire outside help to come in, maybe host a few workshops, and help set shiny new goals for the company to reach. In many cases, this triggers momentum, and in an attempt to capture it, leadership may set up benchmarks and start to measure the success of the teams and individuals. Some teams may be hitting the mark, others may not. Weekly scorecards, and monthly reports get introduced into the picture as a way to continue tracking progress towards the goals. Next, a team is assembled to track the goals, and re-train those who are still falling short, because maybe they just need to hear it one more time in order to succeed.  Problem solved, right?

These are all reasonable and logical efforts, and I have seen them play out time and time again. Organizations get so intent on driving change that they try to force the change with compliance to a set of tasks or benchmarks.  Leaders spend time trying to replicate the success of a few instead of creating opportunities to engage everyone towards their own success.  They settle for hitting numerical goals and end up getting quite good at monitoring performance so that the business stays above the line of failure. Unfortunately, what once started as an inspired idea born out of creativity and a dream of change has now been placed in a box and turned into a process with which all must comply.  What’s even more dangerous is that the company has now selected a group of their most talented and trusted leaders to monitor and audit this process which means they have less time to develop and coach their teams to success.

Enter influence. If auditing, monitoring, and exerting authority gets your organization to a state compliance, then influence will promote your organization to a state of commitment. Commitment is what happens when leaders influence behavior versus audit it. Commitment will take your employees, team, and organization to a new level of success, productivity, and engagement because individuals will want to work towards a goal, not just be afraid of what will happen if they don’t. Committed organizations find themselves being able to innovate, develop their people, impact the bottom line, and make a true difference because they spend less time monitoring and more time doing.

So, how can you tell if your organization is compliant or committed?  Think about what your employees routinely say and do and take stock of how you as a leader are spending your time.  The chart below can help categorize where your teams fall.



  • Creates followers
  • Creates more leaders
  • Leadership exerts a great amount of effort to drive tasks or goals
  • Leaders are focused on the future and ways to improve and innovate
  • Focus of the team is on task completion
  • Focus of the team is on end in mind and vision behind the task at hand
  • Employees ask “why” tasks are necessary
  • Employees ask for feedback as it relates to the task or goal at hand
  • Change feels slow and hard
  • Change is sustainable

These are two different leadership paths that lead to two different organizational results.  How your organization chooses to lead will greatly determine the success of your business, the tone of your culture, and the engagement of your employees.

Leading Through Influence

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