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Things Are Not Always What They Seem: Influence

by Miki Saxon

illusion

As someone who has lived more decades than most of my readers I can remember when having influence wasn’t considered a viable life goal.

But that was then…

Not only is it an acceptable goal, there are sites like Klout that track your influence and even companies and managers dumb enough to hire based on a candidate’s Klout score.

These days, influence is measured based on important criteria, such as number of friends and followers, tweets and other commenting and web presence—an impressive way to measure, to be sure.

As influencers become more intentional and influencees less discerning I thought this was a good time to repost something I wrote several years ago.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes that they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do whatever who are you to say that the outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

And if you are on the receiving end of influence, be it active or passive, you’ll see a higher ROI by paying attention and being mindful of intent.

Image credit: Anonymous

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