What Makes Us Influential?

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The essence of leadership is the ability to influence others to support and implement decisions that the leader and group members perceive are necessary.  In Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut explore what makes us influential. If you want to become a more effective leader, their answers will be useful.

Leaders require followers, and followers decide how we feel about someone before actually take their lead. In doing so, we make two key judgments focusing on strength and warmth.

Strength is a person’s capacity to make things happen with the abilities and force of will. When people project strength, they command our respect.

Warmth is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests and view of the world. When people project warmth, we like and support them.

Take a minute and think of leaders you know, locally and globally. Do you see how people’s (including your own) perception of their strength and warmth determines whether these figures are leaders for them/you? Dictators are strong, but you may not want to follow them if they don’t share the same world-view and value system that you do.

The most effective leaders project both strength and warmth. The impress us as knowing what they are doing and have our best interests at heart. As a result we trust them, and find them persuasive.

If you want to be a more effective leader, the question is how do you authentically project both your strength and warmth to potential followers?

To demonstrate your strength, you need to show that you have the ability to affect the world and have the will to act.

To project warmth, you need to display:

Empathy – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, so they know they are not alone

Familiarity – demonstrating that you are similar and have things in common, so they comfortable around you

Affection and attachment.

There are limits, and effective leaders learn to work with them. Two examples:

The hydraulic relationship between strength and warmth: when one goes up the other often goes down. Increasing strength substantially will diminish the warmth people feel about you. So a delicate balance is necessary..

The halo effect: we tend to attribute positive qualities to people other positive qualities (the same goes for negative qualities). As followers, we need to be careful not to get trapped into overly attributing strength or warmth.

As a leader, how do you project strength and warmth? How do different displays of each affect the extent to which you’re an effective leader in different situations?  How to other’s displays affect your decisions on whether to be strong/loyal followers or not?   Share your experiences!