Leadership Is All About Influence

joanne vt

Leadership is a very broad term that has been defined in numerous ways. Accordingly, leadership studies shed lights on various aspects of leadership, for instance, leadership traits, situational leadership, charismatic and transformation leadership, etc. Nevertheless, influence is a core element that is included in most popular definitions of leadership. Consequently, in this article, we focus on the influencing aspect of leadership. We argue that leadership is all about influence. In addition, we discuss various styles of influencing.

In this perspective, we argue that the effectiveness of leadership depends on the types of relationship that leaders establish with their followers. Leaders are servants of their followers, that is, they create conditions for others to be successful. Leaders without followers can hardly influence anyone, and therefore, do not have leadership. Followers’ willingness to be influenced by their leaders gives them their power base. Leaders could earn power or influence through their legitimate position, however, their influence could be far more powerful and far reaching if it is based on other sources, such as being role models and experts for their followers. There types of influence are based on reusable resources and are located within individuals and their behaviors.

Subsequently, we view leadership not as something that is given or static, instead, but in terms of how leaders act and interact with their followers. For instance, in our training, we normally discuss a very powerful and widely used interaction model, i.e., Rose of Leary, which examines behavior patterns in interaction in terms of influencing and being influenced, and in terms of orientation for people/relation and task/results. Therefore, in our view of leadership, it is always enacted in interaction and it is dynamic, i.e., it changes with changes in behaviors.

Influencing is an important skill for managers. Leaders need to ensure that people move in certain directions and work toward certain goals. Therefore, influencing skills are important for leaders when they motivate their employees. What are some of the interactions styles that leaders could use to influence their followers? In our training, we normally discuss five styles of influence, namely, urging, convincing, investigating, inspiring, and avoiding. Urging style is about dictating, complementing, and judging. When a leader uses urging style, he/she focuses on what he/she wants and tasks that need to be done. Convincing is to propose and to influence with logical arguments. Therefore, when a leader uses convincing style, he/she tends to give reasons for taking actions first. Investigating leaders focus on active listening skills and they invite their followers in decision making. They ask questions such as, “How do you see that problem?” “What would you do about it?” “How can I help you?” In contrast to all of the approaches discussed above, inspiring leaders focus on building a vision for their followers and work on making them become passionate and enthusiastic about something. They start a conversation with expressions like, “Would it be fantastic if…” “Can you imagine if …” None of the above influencing styles is necessarily better than others. Instead, just like different situations demand different leadership styles, they also call for different influencing styles.

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