Understanding workplace influence and leadership – New Brunswick

A senior public official shared with me her role’s watchdog challenge, given she is tasked with influencing the government of the day, its elected members and an entire bureaucracy to, as strictly as possible, follow legislation that is sometimes unpopular with the electorate.

She admitted that influencing the behaviour of a nearly 10,000-person civil service was daunting, perhaps the greatest challenge of a very successful career of leading change and being at the forefront of important public policy decisions.

“I do it the way I always have, by influencing others using several means, but principally by having one conversation at a time.”

Author John Maxwell famously said, “Leadership is influence.” At leadership’s core, formal and informal leaders seek to affect the behaviour, choices and points of view of others. In workplaces and beyond, it is the thoughtful art and science of gaining commitment, securing compliance and surmounting resistance.

Managers have learned, as we have moved away from traditional and often dated command-and-control management styles, attempting to gain worker obedience by telling and directing, that the ability to influence through other means is now a must-have for leaders.

It is a competency that is highly sought after, tested for and central to whether people are selected for formal leadership roles.

6 ‘weapons of influence’

In his oft-cited and highly acclaimed best seller Influence — The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini masterfully lays out the science of  his six “weapons of influence.” Those tactics have enabled everyone from hucksters to the most honourable and well-intentioned among us to encourage others to act a certain way, think differently or buy something. Leaders and managers would do well to internalize his evidence-based treatise that reminds us that employees are built to reciprocate, like things that are proven to be liked by others and are all heavily influenced by expertise,…

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