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.