The 4 Origins of Influence

If you influence others, I can think of 4 possible origins.

  1. Position
  2. Power
  3. Performance
  4. Personality

Position

Many can influence our behavior because they have a position. They’re the boss or the president. You see many today resisting traditional positional influence. Positional authority is necessary for civilization, even though we may resist. It is the lowest common denominator in leadership.

Power

Influence based on power is a close second on the leadership food chain. When we grant someone the ability to influence us because they have more power we’re saying their historical influence is a reason to allow them to influence us. They have more resources, or they already have more ability to influence others. Therefore, we will also give them the ability to influence us.

Performance

Third, is influence based on performance. We invest the way Warren Buffet and other successful people do because they achieved the goals for which we aspire. They’ve reached the levels we only strive for. So, we listen to them. We do what they say. We may read the same books and do the same things hoping for the same results. We grant them influence to achieve their results.

Personality

Finally, the character of someone, their “who-they-are” is the fourth reason why we grant others the ability to influence us. People we respect garner the greatest influence. When we look up to someone because of who they are, we try to be like them. Influence we give others in this category produces our best energy and summons our best effort. We bring our best to be the best person we can be and great people bring that out in us. They seldom challenge us to serve them, but often they serve us. And that is one reason why servant leadership often gets confused with character-based leadership. Often the people with the greatest character know that serving others is the highest form of leadership. Person-based or character-based leadership inspires the best in everyone.

Notice too, that for each of the four reasons, we give influence. It can be manipulated or tricked out of us. We can give is against our will. But we always give influence. The secret sauce in a free society is the ability to freely give others the ability to influence us. I enjoy being an American because America was the first nation formed with the understanding that authority comes from the governed. We are a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.

Let’s be the kind of people who receive influence because of our character. When our character inspires others to join us, our teams will have more energy and our team members will be more engaged and productive.