How Will I Grow My Influence? (Lesson 7)

The way that a leader leads effectually creates emotions in people, which in turn directly impact their productivity. What do I mean by that? Let me illustrate with a discussion I always have with employees when I run culture sessions inside organisations.

I firstly ask them to think about the worst leader they have ever worked for. I ask them to get very specific about how it felt working for that person. I usually hear words like disheartened, angry, frustrated, depressed, apathetic, indifferent, anxious, used, intimidated.

I then ask them, “How productive are you when you feel that way?” Without fail they say that it’s hard to be productive when you feel that way. You have to fight your way through those emotions to be able to get your work done.

Then, we flip the script and I ask them about the best leader they’ve worked for, and how they feel under that leadership. Words like empowered, energized, excited, inspired, fulfilled, respected, confident, optimistic (even in challenging times) are routinely mentioned.

Then I ask how productive they are when they are feeling those emotions. Time and time again, they say that their work is exponentially better than in the first situation, and they are super productive.

And then I’ll smile and say, “Without knowing it, you’ve just told me that emotions matter at work!”

The way people feel directly impacts their daily productivity. And, the people that have the biggest impact on how people feel at work are those at the top of the food chain—the leaders.

Like it or not, you, as the CEO, are the chief emotion-creator in your organisation. Your decisions, your actions, the way you treat people, impacts every person in your organisation. You hold all the power cards.

What that means is you are influencing people whether you know it or not. The question is, are you influencing people toward productivity and desired results, or away from them?

Positional Authority

Command-and-control style leadership breeds compliance to your face, and resistance behind your back. You need to understand that, even though you’re probably excited on some level to have the highest-ranking title in the organisation, positional authority is the weakest of all forms of authority.

I’ve seen people who have become CEO and believe, “Now that I’ve got this title, I can make things happen” and they throw the title around, using it to force change and get their way.

Your title gets you to the table. It gives you a right to have influence within the organisation, but if it’s your tool of first resort, you’re going to find yourself very challenged. People will do what you say when you’re in the room, and once you’re gone, will go back to doing things the way they want, and will be resenting you for it. That’s not the way to build influence.

“It’s worked pretty well in the military!” you may say. Can I suggest you turn off the television, because that film you’re watching is not representative of how effective militaries work in the modern day.

I have a friend from past years who was a captain in the Navy—the CEO of his own warship. He regularly had people wanting to transfer onto his ship because of the culture he created.

They knew that he was the boss—the CEO—just as they know you’re the boss, but he exercised his authority to make best use of everybody’s brains and skillsets. He built a culture where his people knew that respectful dissent is welcome, especially if others have better solutions.

He’s told me plenty of stories of other military leaders who he’s encountered that try to rule based on their title, and their commands are a mess. They are full of people who waste too much energy trying to not anger their leader and cover their backsides when it happens.

This is not to say you shouldn’t ever pull the rank card. Sometimes you will need it as your position of last resort; but when you do that, it should be such a rare happening that it means something, and carries extra weight that throwing your title around every day just won’t cultivate.

In the early part of your tenure, your team (both individually and in small groups) is constantly evaluating your character. You’re not going to grow long-term influence if you’re demanding respect based on the title on your business card.