As an avid student of the art and science of influence with a self-professed professional aspiration to become “An influential brand builder who builds influential brands that influence the world,” I really enjoyed this post by Brass Tack Thinking. Here are my takeaways:
- Influence is the ability to make things happen. I think of my this quote that has (ahem) influenced me on the subject: “When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’” – David Ogilvy
- Influence is contextual – it depends on the situation and what you care about. That is, the leverage of influence depends on what you consider to be the most important (i.e. The cause/the idea? The effect/actions/results? The connection between the two?). Whether building or measuring influence, we need to understand which type of influence is important, and why.
- Influence is the product of reach and authority. To influence the actions of others, you have to have access to them—and they have to perceive you to have some level of authority, either over them or in an area of expertise they value.
- Popularity helps with influence – Because it gives access: the more popular you are, the more reach you have, and thus the greater possibility of influence. But popularity doesn’t guarantee influence, it only opens more doors. And it’s ephemeral: tastes change, needs change.
- Authority doesn’t guarantee influence. Whether granted or earned over time, authority has the potential to intensify influence: authority grants power. But it’s ephemeral, too. Earned authority—gained over repeated interactions—lasts as long as its integrity and its relevance do. Granted authority (as in the case of a leader or manager), often lasts only as long as the appointment (or the appointee) does.
- Influence requires both reach and authority, to varying degrees. Focusing on only one or the other will leave you seeing half the picture. Or less. Both need attention. And constant maintenance.
- (Most) Influence is invisible. You see a cause. You see an effect. What you can’t see, and never will, is where influence actually happens: in the “and” between the two. You can’t see inside every individual head to know or understand if and how the two relate, because it happens in the back channel. In instant messages, in DMs, in phone calls, emails, etc. In person, in meetings. At lunches and dinners and breakfasts. Out of town. Out of sight. That’s why what we can see gets so much attention, and measuring it the cause of such debate. But understand this: for every person consciously exhibiting their influence (and influences), there are just as many (or more) consciously shielding it.