Leadership and Influence

Leadership is hard enough without understanding the power of influence over others. There are seven areas of psychology that effectively “lock-in” to each other in a hierarchical, top-down structure governing human relationships. They create the context where persuasion and influence can be effective between a leader and their followers.

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Many organizational leaders default to wielding titles, degrees, certifications, and other forms of authority that they instinctively know followers respond to, but they don’t know the “why.” When leaders default to the stance of authority, instead of beginning at the top of the hierarchy with reciprocation; they leave their followers flying blind.

Leadership Problems

This creates three problems:

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People respond to authority figures without reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, and liking in the same way that a child responds to a parent the first time that they are disciplined. Not well. Good leaders know that the top of the funnel has to be filled with relationships, not people with titles.

People lose trust in leaders because they instinctively know that leadership is abundant (look at the number of volumes about it on Amazon) but that statesmanship is scarce. Good leaders strive to link and connect all the forms of persuasion through the funnel, rather than leapfrogging over the ones that they aren’t personally comfortable with to get to the area that they are. When they do this, they rise in esteem in their followers’ eyes.

People link consensus to leadership, only if the leadership is credible. Does anybody wonder why the last landslide election in the United States for President was 30 years ago? Consensus is hard to get, hard to maintain, and not a natural state of affairs. Leaders in organizations often conflate organizational silence with organizational consensus and miss the disgruntled 49% who they never wooed anyway. Sometimes leaders don’t need those followers (particularly if leaders rig the game, as in politics) but most of the time, a leader with 49% of the people in her organization who dislike her first, will never build consensus with those same followers later on in the funnel when it matters.

When leaders default to what is easy (rigging the consensus game or wielding authority) rather than working on developing what is hard (reciprocity consistency and commitment), they do their followers a disservice. They also miss an opportunity to rise above the pedestrian conflicts that predominate most organizations and become something more than mere managers.


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