Part 1: What Influencer are you? [6 types]

If you have been a leader in whatever capacity, you must learn to use one thing – Influence. While, Influence can have different connotations for different people, Influence is determined by only one thing – the ability to achieve desired outcomes.

Leadership is all about influencing people. Understanding why and how different people can be influenced and are willing to be influenced, can and will make you an effective leader. This article focuses on six sources of influence commonly used in the workplace. It is for you to use the right one that is appropriate for the situation.

Leadership is all about influencing people. Understanding why and how different people can be influenced and are willing to be influenced, can and will make you an effective leader.

Note: None of the types of influence listed below is good or bad in isolation. The use of influence is situational and person dependent and hence it depends on what works best with minimal conflict.

There are broadly 6 types of influence –

  1. Coercive influence is based upon the leader’s capability to punish.
  2. Reward influence is based on the leader’s ability to dispense rewards.
  3. Position influence is based upon the tendency of people to respond to individuals in higher positions.
  4. Expert influence is based upon your skill or expertise which others may hold in high regard. Information influence is based upon the information or knowledge you have that’s not available to others.
  5. Personal influence is based upon your individual personality and charisma, and the relationships you create.
  6. Information influence is based on your fact that you hold information or knowledge that others do not have access to. This is a bit different from Expert influence where the influence is because you have deep knowledge on the subject.

Some of your influence comes from the organization that you work for and your position/ title (Example – “Manager”, “Vice President”). But much of your influence comes from you personally or your ability to work within the organization. The ability to influence is important to managers. It directly affects whether they can get things done. That’s what managers get paid for!

This addresses three sets of questions:

  1. What is the ability to influence about, and what are its sources?
  2. How can I use my influence effectively?
  3. How can I maintain and, if needed, increase my own influence?

Influence: Basics

As you explore each source of influence, think of your management situation. Ask yourself:

  • “How does this type of influence apply to me?”
  • “Do my employees respond to this type of influence?
  • “Do I use this influence too much… too little?”
  • “Do I need more?”

Understanding sources of influence is only half of what you need. Using it effectively is the other half.

Coercive influence

Coercive influence is based upon the leader’s capability to punish. “Punishment” can be everything from verbal reprimands, to assigning undesirable work tasks, or even termination. Managers can use this source of influence by being quick to dispense punishment, or simply reminding others that punishment can be dispensed.

Example:

A manager joked with employees by pretending to “fire” them when he wasn’t pleased. “You’re late with that proposal. Looks like I’ll have to fire you again. That’s twice this week.” The manager was inadvertently reminding employees of the coercive influence he held.

Use this source of influence when:

  • other sources of influence are not working
  • you are dealing with unsatisfactory performance or behaviour

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • other, less negative, influences will work

Reward influence

Reward influence is based on the leader’s ability to dispense rewards. We tend to think of rewards as money. “Rewards” are also praise, recognition, good job assignments, access to information — anything that’s perceived as positive or desirable.

Example:

The popular book, The One-Minute Manager, suggested that managers should “look for people doing something right” and give them praise and recognition and rewards.

Use this source of influence:

  • anytime!

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • you might be sending conflicting messages with unsatisfactory performers

Position influence

Position influence is using people’s tendency to a respond to individuals in higher positions. Jobs higher in the organizational hierarchy typically carry more influence than those lower in the hierarchy. Sometimes it’s simply the perception of being high in the hierarchy that creates the impression of influence.

Example:

Your employee needs a shipment sent out quickly and comes to you because Distribution department will only expedite shipments with a manager’s signature.

Use this source of influence when:

  • you’re new to a department and other sources of influence levels are low
  • you need to get things done with other parts of the organization

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • more personal influence sources will work as effectively

Expert influence

Expert influence is based upon your skill or expertise which others may hold in high regard. You’re a manager, but you also have functional or technical expertise. People may respond to you from a skill perspective more favorably than from other influence bases. This is especially true with some professional groups.

Example:

A colleague of mine is an expert at IPD and project management. He frames discussions in project management terms and often talks about his experiences.

Use this source of influence when:

  • when dealing with specialty subjects where your credibility is high
  • dealing with other experts

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • your expertness could be perceived as bragging or ego
  • your audience does not value the expertise

Personal influence

Personal influence is based on your individual personality, charisma, and the relationships you create. People tend to want to do things for individuals they like and respect — even managers! The common characteristics of honesty, kindness, and interest in people can be powerful.

Example:

A co-worker mentioned that he was doing a piece of work we both hated. When I asked why, he responded, “How could I say no to Peter? He’s such a great guy.”

Use this source of influence when:

  • all the time

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • employees invite you home to meet their mothers

Information influence

Information influence is the fact that you have information or knowledge not available to others. Because of your position or relationships, you may have information others don’t have. Information can be influential power. It may give you inside knowledge of events or insights that increase other sources of power.

Example:

Managers often receive pre-announcement packages that give them information ahead of others. They can use this to anticipate reactions and plans.

Use this source of influence when:

  • you are new and other sources of influence sources are low
  • sharing the information could improve work tasks or relationships

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • the information could hurt people
  • you’ve promised to hold the information as confidential

As you review the sources of influence, you probably recognize some as sources you are using now. Other sources, perhaps not. Every manager’s job is different. You need to assess your situation and decide how you will use your influence. You have probably seen that some of the sources of influence come mainly from the organization, and others come from within yourself. Don’t think that you can change only the latter. Remember: the ability to influence another person is power.

In my next post, I will share with you a few FAQs on Influence, How you can increase your influence with a few tips and traps.

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Author’s note – I would not recommend one type of influence over the other, though I have given examples of each. It would be a great idea for you to relate to one or two people / situations in your personal experience who use that particular influence types and feel free to comment and share your thoughts below. This will help the community too and I will be glad to learn from you.

In Part 2 of this, I will talk about a few FAQ, on how to improve your influence and tips and traps. [Link here]

Please do share your thoughts and feedback.

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**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at rajesh@futureshift.com.sg **

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