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Influence isn't always positive

by Miki Saxon

Michael Hyatt wrote a post on which is more important, influence or control when leading. It’s actually pretty obvious, since no one person truly controls another, except through threats, which eventually lose their power.

He says, “However, while you can’t control anyone (except perhaps yourself), you can influence nearly everyone.”

Unfortunately, that’s a very true statement.

I say unfortunately because I don’t believe that the ability to lead/influence is linked to any particular ethical stance.

He continues, “By this definition, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King were great leaders. They had control of virtually no one, yet their influence changed the course of history.”

The same can be said for Genghis Kahn and Hitler, it was their ability to influence and draw people to their views that underlay all they did.

A few days ago I wrote that while ethical stances seem the same, the definitions change with the times—“Universally, murder has always been considered bad, but what constitutes murder is ever changing.”

You need to recognize that

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models;
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon; and that
  • there are always at least two sides to any subject or person.

Knowing this, it’s up to you to choose the one that “fits” you best.

2 Responses to “Influence isn't always positive”
  1. Mike ChittyNo Gravatar Says:

    I think we are overlooking the roles of choice and context in the triumph of ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
    Because followers are largely influenced, rather than controlled, they have to make choices. And the choices they make will be influenced by their context.
    Hitler, Gandhi, King and Khan, just like Mr Smith in the post-room, can only lead effectively when the choices they offer resonate in some way with the context and perceptions of followers. Without this resonance between follower and leader nothing much happens. So it is too simple to say that Hitler et al were ethically bad. The system in which they exerted so much influence had to be right for their rise.
    Asking the question about ‘what sort of leader could really make a difference in this organisation?’ tells you a lot about real (as opposed to espoused) organisational values and culture.
    Is your organisation ripe for a Hitler or Gandhi?

  2. Good leaders aren’t always goood « Progressive Managers’ Network Says:

    […] hand were great leaders with top values and look at what they got done’.  Miki Saxon over at Leadership Turn gives a nice example of the […]

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