Lead With Influence, Not Control

-Gain cooperation with authenticity and a positive vision

The leadership stakes are high right now for business leaders. Besides your regular business activities, you must address the uncertainty over the pandemic and political, social and economic turmoil.

Today, I want to talk to you about the difference between leading with influence and control. Influence is about creating a powerful wave of authenticity and positivity that has its own momentum. Control is fear-based compliance to avoid a negative outcome.

I will start with a story about Gandhi. I am not sure how true this story is, but it illustrates a significant point.

A mother was upset with her young son since he ate too many sweets and his teeth rotted. She brought him to Gandhi and asked him to impart some wisdom that would help the young boy see the error of his ways. Gandhi replied that he would oblige the mother but requested that she go home and return with her son next week. The mother did not understand the reasoning but did what he asked.

The following week she returned with her son. Gandhi looked at the boy and said, “Stop eating sweets.” The mother was perplexed. She asked, “Why couldn’t you say that to him last week?”

And Gandhi replied, “because last week, I was eating sweets.”

Self-leadership makes you credible.
During this chaotic and unstable time, walking your talk is more important than ever. The power of your words rests not only on how you behave in public but behind closed doors. Others can sense whether you are authentic or not. Malcolm Gladwell references this capacity in his best-selling, researched backed book Blink as “thin-slicing,” a strange but innate impulse we have to detect patterns and read situations. Our subconscious picks up a lot more information than our conscious mind allowing us to sense who is credible.

Authenticity is a powerful influencer. Gandhi knew that if he wanted the full weight of his words to impact the boy, he had to be the person he was asking the young boy to be. Simultaneously, not even Gandhi was immune to mistakes (if you consider eating sugar an error). He had the humility and self-awareness to acknowledge that he must adhere to the same standards he held others to. Otherwise, his words would be hollow and useless.

To have a powerful influence over others, you must positively influence yourself first. If you find inconsistencies between your words and actions, that is okay. Be grateful for the self-awareness and make the necessary corrections to deepen your authenticity.

Build up instead of tearing down.
Influence is about building a vision with shared ideals and values. As a positive influencer, you do not forecast the dangers ahead. You feel adequate to handle any potential future downside if it should occur. Instead, you bring attention to the positive opportunities that stabilize people rather than the potential hazards that destabilize them. 

With influence as your strategy, you are confident to let people decide how to bring their best contributions and collaboration to the table. Whether it is the successful rollout of a new product or a client’s decision to buy your services, you are a model for and a bridge to a better outcome.

Influence takes thought and compassion. It requires respecting others’ minds and hearts and making an effort to find out the shared values and ideals that appeal across the board. That is why fewer people do it. Shared themes like success, empowerment, happiness, wellbeing, sustainability, authenticity, and autonomy are universally appealing.

When you influence others, they come willingly and of their own volition to participate in the goals and vision you have laid out. They are vested in the outcome because they find personal meaning is what you are wanting to achieve.

Fear-based control.
Control is about tearing down the status quo instead of helping it evolve. You focus attention on all that is wrong, broken, or damaged. Control requires fear. Fear is a fast and cheap way to get others to do what you want them to do. The problem is that fear-based power is not sustainable. People need to be drawn forward with inspiration for long-term productivity and engagement, not scared into it.

When the circumstances are so precarious as they are now, it is tempting to use fear as a hack to get the cooperation you want quickly. People use fear in subtle and overt ways throughout our culture. Just think of advertising and sales tactics that “share” the idea that if you do not have something or do something that everyone else has or does, you will miss out or be left behind.

On the other hand, there is the overt fear that you will be fired or exiled from the group if you do not adhere to specific policies. While we all must be accountable for the consequences of our behaviors, using fear to enforce that accountability is leading with control.

Control takes less time and skill because fear ignites our survival instincts and launches people into action without much thought. However, when you induce a fear-based state, people can only be productive and engaged for a limited amount of time. Burnout and apathy are the typical results of chronic motivation through fear. Sustained fear does not support well-adjusted, rational and critically thinking individuals.

Whether at work, at home or in your community, leadership success boils down to something straightforward. You either inspire people with authenticity and a clear and compelling case or you use fear to frighten them into compliance.

How would you rather be led?

Work Your Inner Genius.
When seeking to influence others to contribute their best, consider the following questions.

  1. What inspired goal, common ideal or positive value can you highlight to bring people of different opinions or work ethics together?
  2. How can you create a dialogue where it is safe to share different meanings for the goal, ideal, or value? How can you build on these shared meanings to get consensus and commitment?
  3. What are some ways to keep your fear in check so that your words and behaviors reflect confidence and trust?
   Thanks for reading!  Til next week, 

   Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach
   Authenticity instigator. Success accelerator. Creativity engineer. 
   Mindset shifter. Trusted partner.  
    www.readysetmore.com
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  Adapted from Authentic Success Newsletter.
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