By Raju Mandhyan
INFLUENCE is not a bad word. Even the most benign things or thoughts can be twisted to create negative outcomes. Influence is not impact. Impact is just that — a loud noise, a loud bang or something that blows your mind away. Influence is also not inspiration. Inspiration, etymologically, means to light a fire, a spark within someone else. Impact and inspiration are both extremely important and have a place and a time of their own in this world.
Influence is many times interchanged with persuasion and rightly so because they are close cousins. Also some of the ingredients and elements of influence and persuasion are quite similar. The one and only major differentiator, sometimes, might be that the real or hidden agenda of persuasion might be selfish. Do note that I deliberately used the words ‘sometimes’ and ‘might’ when differentiating the two. You can read up on Robert Cialdini’s famous book on influence and figure out that it is all about persuasion. That is why his book is titled, ‘Influence,’ and then subtitled, ‘the psychology of persuasion.’
Influence is what author John Maxwell calls it — leadership. In fact, the way he describes it is the other way around. His exact words are “Leadership Is Influence: Nothing More, Nothing Less.” I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor John Maxwell and humbly would like to add a few thoughts of my own.
Whether we like it or not and whether we accept it or not, we are all almost always influencing the world around us. Influence is leadership. There are times when we are leading our own tiny families and then there are times when we are influencing the world within our reach. We are never not influencing. When our agendas tip towards our own gains, we dip into the darker pits of grace. When our real agendas focus on all around and systemic progress for the world then we bring in brilliance.
Scores of thought leaders spell out scores of ways and means on how to influence and how to become an influential person. Words and ideas like character, creativity, critical thinking, compassion, credibility, a sense of commitment are also major factors of influence. All of them make for influencing our abilities to influence others and there is no doubt about any of them. All are needed.
A decade ago, at a conference where he was the chief guest and I was the master of ceremonies, I walked up to Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, and asked him; “Sir, how do you manage to keep greed and selfishness in check amongst volunteers in your organization given that so much new funding and so many new people are pouring into your organization?” I do admit that it was a very long question and the mental model that it emanated from was slightly warped. Today, I ask better questions and my mental model plus world view is a continuous work in progress. “Trust,” he gently replied without blinking his eyes. “How do you mean?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter where they come from, what their background and their intentions might be, we give them trust in spades and they bring it back to us in wheelbarrows,” he explained. “The whole organization is growing and evolving on that corner and foundational stone,” he added.
Today, no matter what I do — whether I run a training session, facilitate a forum, or coach a CEO — I know that my good intentions will not move my clients an inch unless I have their trust. And it is etched onto my heart and mind that I will not earn any trust unless I first let it pour out of myself in buckets towards my clients and towards the entities that I wish to influence proactively and positively.
Think about this in our lives. Think about why children do not follow their parents. Think about why people do not follow their chosen leaders. Think out how and why many of our initiatives, interventions and innovations do not fly. They do not fly because they essentially and foundationally lack the heart of influence — trust.
Now you know where to place your mind and heart. Today you know where to start influencing your world. Tomorrow we will talk about character, creativity, critical thinking, compassion, credibility, commitment as other factors of influence.
Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach and speaker.