The Reflection Pool

Influence Really is That Important

In my first naive years as a school leader, I didn’t understand the power of influence.  I wasn’t so sure that Dale Carnegie really knew what he was talking about. I used to think that if you told people what to do, then they would do it. I spent very little time reflecting on my leadership and my impact on people.

Photo Credit: wajadoon Flickr via Compfight cc

Fast forward 9 years.  Now I know that leading people is much more complex. Lots of reading, observation and my own mistakes and successes have taught me that. Compliance does not mean commitment. Not only that, but if you lose the ability to influence those you work with, you become an ineffective leader.

The Ontario Leadership Framework rests on this: “Leadership is the exercise of influence on organizational members and diverse stakeholders toward the identification and achievement of the organization’s vision and goals”.

This kind of leadership needs respectful relationships, trust, and an ability to listen carefully and understand people. That means:

  • getting to know people, their values, beliefs and experiences;
  • demonstrating character (Steven M.R. Covey: How the Best Leaders Build Trust): trustworthiness, follow through and integrity;
  • demonstrating competence (Covey) and knowledge in your role;
  • showing vulnerability and admitting what you don’t know;
  • listening to understand, not to respond;
  • asking for feedback regularly;
  • showing that you value people through your actions and your words.

What strikes you about this list?  One of my biggest challenges is active listening. Sometimes the need to give my opinion or the “right” answer can be overwhelming, and I need to remind myself how to work best with people.

I want to influence others to do their very best, most creative and interesting work and so I keep on. It’s worth doing.


3 thoughts on “Influence Really is That Important

  1. Thanks for this post, Sue! Active listening is something that I continue to work on: whether with students or with colleagues. My work at Camp Power last summer made me really focus on this, and it’s something that I plan on continuing to focus on this summer. It’s actually a component of my Annual Learning Plan.

    I appreciate how open you are in sharing that this is something that you continue to work on. Sometimes we all need to know that we’re not alone.


    1. Aviva – I appreciate you taking the time to post. I remember when I first learned about exactly what active listening was – through a great program called Cognitive Coaching. We all want to tell our stories, justify our thinking and respond to others. As you know, when we are too busy thinking about our response, we don’t listen carefully to others and miss our opportunity to understand what they are saying.

      How is your active listening going?

      1. Thanks Sue! I feel as though I’m better at the active listening when I’m just listening to one person at a time. In a K classroom, where I often have lots of kids talking to me at once, I’m not always the best. Sometimes it’s actually in my recording of the conversations, when I listen back to them, that I really hear what they were trying to say. That’s when I realize how wrong I was. I definitely still need to work at the active listening with one voice at a time.

        Thanks for the reply!

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