You do not have to be the highest level person in the company to make a difference.

In this issue of our newsletter we focus on one particular aspect of leadership – Influential Leadership. The question is: How can I exert influence without holding a “position of power” in the organization? In other words: How can I lead without power? And does that make sense at all?

In organizations that are becoming more and more complex, one is increasingly dependent on the support of others to achieve one’s own goals. There are examples of this like sand on the sea: The sales employee can only be successful if she has the support of order processing. The quality manager must ensure that quality is important for all employees in the company. The customer service employee needs the support of the development department, etc.

How can I now get others to follow me without having the opportunity to “force” them because of a position of power? The answer is “Influential Leadership”.

This model is not a completely new approach. It’s about combining different elements from other leadership models to inspire others to act. The key is open and respectful communication.

What can you do in concrete terms? Here are a few examples:

  • Trust is the basis for any good cooperation. When it comes to “leadership without power”, it is very helpful to check one’s own actions to see whether they tend to build trust or destroy trust – and to refrain from the latter.
  • Show passion and enthusiasm – this is often contagious. It is not about “converting” others, but rather about authentically communicating one’s own enthusiasm.
  • Listening and an inner attitude to want understanding others and their motivation creates the basis for dialogue and is more important than constantly arguing the importance of one’s own topics or point of view.
  • If you want others to follow you, it is important to understand what contributions you can make to support others.
  • Setting a good example will pay off in the long run. Take time for self-reflection to become fully aware of your own mental processes such as thoughts, feelings and reactions to different situations.

A question I am often asked in this context: Isn’t that manipulation?

Well, I think the main difference to Influential Leadership is that manipulation is always a hidden influence – i.e. the other side is left unclear about its own goals. Manipulation often leads to someone taking actions that contradict their own interests. If the manipulation is recognized later – and this often happens – trust is lastingly destroyed.

Therefore, in influential leadership it is essential to make one’s own goals transparent, to understand the interests of others and to find a solution that reconciles them with one’s own goals.

Finally, an example from the field of quality management:

If the developer understands how good quality supports his goals, this will change his attitude towards quality. If the quality manager then includes the developer in the definition of quality-enhancing measures and leads a dialogue on this, a win-win situation will be created from which everyone benefits.