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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What is your dominant management style?

Managers will always set different accents, when it concerns their contributions to the organisation. They apply different management styles. Below we describe three styles, on the basis of the ‘input-processing-output model’.

Management by exception (MBE)
MBE is an input and resource-oriented style of management. The manager sees to the required resources. The manager, who applies this style, will usually only intervene in the execution when calamities occur. This means that he gives his employees much leeway: ‘Let them do it their way.’ The question is, whether the desired results are reached in this way.

It is of course unthinkable that a manager does not concern himself with the question of what resources are required for achieving results. You negotiate with suppliers of materials and accessories of (equipment), you make the required resources and information available, you determine when an order can be accepted and processed without any insurmountable problems, you think about the qualities of your (new) personnel and you determine which information is usable for the organisation. All of these are examples of the areas of focal attention on the input side.

Managers adopting MBE style of management tend to delegate and give directions or coaching only in case of problems. They tend not to monitor the progress of their employees work, instead, give solutions when the employees ask in case of calamity. In terms of motivation, the MBE managers expect their employees to motivate themselves.

Management by prescription (MBP)
This is a management style that is oriented on the process and the execution. The manager regulates the working activities and primarily asks himself the question how the work will be done. This is due to insecurity: ‘If they only do it well.’ Management is primarily a matter of determining what has to be done, which is carried out by means of rules, regulations, procedures, handbooks and the like. This manager sees monitoring the observance of rules and processes as his most important task.

He busied himself primarily with the development of working processes and procedures, with safety regulations, with quality-oriented directions and with questions such as: ‘How do I get the right person in the right place?’, ‘What is the maximum capacity of my machines?’, ‘What is the processing time?’, ‘What is the optimum of information that is required?’, ‘Which technology is that we have to develop, so that we can do our work as efficiently as possible?’ He also takes the requirements of workplace legislation into account and, within governmental organisations, such questions as: ‘How do we assure that legal security, equality before the law and justice are maintained?’
Under MBP style of management, power and influence is primarily located with managers and expert staff. Employees report regularly and the manager control. MBP
managers stress precise observation of rules and procedures. They motivate employees by pressuring them.

Results-oriented management (ROM)
ROM is a management style that focuses on the output or the final result. This manager gives a lot of attention to defining the desired end-result. He describes the requirements that the result must fulfil: ‘They have to know what I expect of them.’ The employee determines himself how he achieves this result. The manager focuses his attention on monitoring and possibly adjusting the achieved results.

He examines, whether the desired results are in agreement with reality. And he checks the degree of satisfaction of his consumer, and whether the products and services are qualitatively and quantitatively sufficient. If the results and its consequences (or effects on society) are not taken as a central point of departure, then one runs the risk of becoming bogged down in bureaucratic transactions, in fighting flash fires, in taking ad hoc decisions etc.

ROM Managers emphasize on delegation and expect employees to regularly inform them on work progress and achievement of results. They motivate by means of encouraging.

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