There are many ways leaders can learn to influence. When done properly, you can inspire through beliefs and values, creating high-performing, productive teams. When done poorly, you may see short-term results, but teams will crumble, productivity will fall, and performance will lag.
The Challenge: For many, a leadership position equates to authority over others.
But there’s much more to leadership than authority and power. This type of one-dimensional leadership can generate short-term results. To influence is to impact the behaviors, attitudes, opinions, and choices of others. Influence is not to be confused with power or control. Influence is leveraging key tactics that involve, connect, and inspire them.
Influence through your network. To influence effectively, with or without positional authority, you need to access your network. Your network refers to who you are connected to and the relationships you can leverage.
Use network mapping to identify people in your network who can help you get things done. To whom do you turn when you run into problems? Who always knows the answers to the difficult questions or the right approach to use with difficult people? These are the people you want to leverage.
Influence through a balance of leadership and management. In A Force for Change, John Kotter offers a simple way to distinguish between management and leadership. Leadership is about coping with CHANGE. Management is about coping with COMPLEXITY. It is essential to find a balance that allows us to create change without being destructive.
Influence through culture. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, is often attributed to the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That means, no matter how good your business strategy may be, the organization’s culture ultimately determines its success and effectiveness. What defines the culture in your organization, and how can you, as a physician leader, influence culture?
The basic unit of culture is naturally occurring groups. It’s not the hierarchy of the organization, and it’s not always formal, assigned teams. It’s the naturally occurring groups in the network that impact and influence culture throughout the organization. According to Dave Logan and John King in their book Tribal Leadership, five stages of tribal leadership exist in each organization:
Stage 1: Survival
Stage 2: Stability
Stage 3: Specialization
Stage 4: Collaboration
Stage 5: Transformation
When you recognize the five stages, you can influence culture by improving the performance of virtually every employee, particularly those at the lower levels. Leaders can influence culture by helping employees move up to the next stage by encouraging behaviors characteristic of the next level.
Influence through leadership style. Treating others how THEY want to be treated has often been called the platinum rule. Understanding the strengths and challenges of your leadership style and other styles can help you follow this rule and improve your influence.
One model of leadership is the 4 Quadrant Leadership Model:
Commanding leaders act first and think later. They are results-orientated and focus on an outcome but not perfection.
Charismatic leaders are storytellers. They jump to conclusions without evidence.
Collaborative leaders are thoughtful but expressive. They are culture builders.
Conscientious leaders are data-focused. They are more reserved and use logic, information, and research to make decisions.
Once you understand the styles and recognize which ones you relate to, you can learn techniques to influence using your style. More importantly, you can learn to flex on how you can influence those in each style more effectively.
The Bottom Line: There are many ways leaders can learn to influence. When done properly, you can inspire through beliefs and values, creating high-performing, productive teams. When done poorly, you may see short-term results, but teams will crumble, productivity will fall, and performance will lag.
Want to develop your influence skills as a leader? Check out AAPL’s Fundamentals of Physician Leadership: Influence Course led by Carrie Kish. This course provides a toolkit designed with thought-provoking activities to help you become a more influential leader.
More information about our educational offerings can be found at physicianleaders.org/education.