Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lead from the Middle of Your Leadership Compass

In other posts I've mentioned that the ability to influence the behavior of others is not only from the top down.  You don't have to be high up on the organizational chart to exhibit effective leadership.  Of course it is easier to use coercive power from a position of authority over someone else, as you can control rewards and punishments.

But influence works in many directions.  Not only can you influence "up" the ladder, but left and right as well.  Richard Haas thinks of it in terms of a compass: "North represents those for whom you work.  To the South are those who work for you.  East stands for colleagues, those in your organization with whom you work.  West represents those outside your organization who have the potential to affect matters that affect you."

How do you use influence?  Joseph Nye argues that there are three ways: coercion, payment, and attraction.  People can either want to do what you want them to do, be paid to do it, or be coerced into it.  In many cases it is a subtle combination of the three all at once.  You may enjoy the type of work that you do, but at the same time you may not do it for free.  Perhaps you'll work a little harder at meeting a deadline if you know a round of layoffs are coming up.  By using all three in the right combination, you can effectively influence or wield power over another.

Although leadership and power are not the same thing, they are interrelated.  To lead is to help define and achieve shared goals.  To do this, you need power.

Think about the four points of your compass.  Who do you report to?  Who reports to you?  How can you use the techniques of influence to affect the behavior and decision making of these people?  How about your colleagues?  And who is outside of the organization who is important to your job?  Clients?  Peers in other similar organizations?  The media?

By keeping this compass model in the back of your head you'll remember that you're in the center of a network of influence and you have some ability to use it to achieve your goals, both personally and professionally.

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