Influence pt.1

Have you ever had someone fail–or refuse–to do something that you had asked of them? Of course. We’ve all experienced that disappointment. The issue in those occurrences was a lack of influence.

Influence is the second attribute of Extreme Leadership. Influence is simply: The capacity to have an effect on the character or behavior of someone. 

We talked earlier in the series about William Wallace being an extreme leader in the blockbuster movie Braveheart. This is especially true as it relates to influence.

The Scottish nobles had one primary motivation: to maintain the lands and castles that they had accumulated. The English aristocracy exploited this with bribes to keep all of Scotland under its control. The problem arose when the nobles needed the Scottish army of commoners as leverage in their negotiations. But the commoners needs and desires were never considered. As a result, the nobles had very little influence on this army that they presumed to lead. This was vividly illustrated in the movie when one commoner exclaimed “I didn’t come here so the nobles could negotiate for more lands!”

As the army begins to disband, Wallace appears and begins to appeal to needs of the commoner: freedom, autonomy and personal pride. As a result, the army was highly motivated to follow Wallace and to fight for Scotland. His tremendous positive influence came because he answered the question that is always present but rarely stated: “what’s in it for me?”. 

Early in my journey as a leader I did not understand this at all. My influence existed only because I held the pen that signed the paycheck. I was out to protect and grow my castle (my paving company). When things did not go well I didn’t look in the mirror to see how I could lead more effectively. Instead, I blamed my employees. This method is a proven recipe for continually losing influence with those with whom you most need it!

Unfortunately my early example was not an isolated case. The self-centered mentality is common in the construction industry. How many times have you heard one of the following complaints: “It’s impossible to find qualified help these days!”. “We can’t get good people anymore!”. “These millennials just don’t want to do real work!”

All of these complaints have one thing in common–they blame the employees or worse, potential employees for their own inability to recruit or retain the type of help they need.

In the next few posts, we’ll discuss ways to increase our influence with those we lead. But in our industry, we first need to influence those we’d like to lead! And there is no better way to differentiate yourself from the competition than to clearly communicate to prospective hires what is in it for them and then give them what they need to succeed.

People want to follow a relatable, empathetic leader. This is a stark departure from the normal leadership paradigm in the construction industry. The I-can-cuss-you-because-I-pay-you mindset will not work. We must be willing to change our mentality.

A big part of being a selfless, courageous leader is the willingness to make the needs and desires of those who follow you a high priority in the decisions you make. That is the path to growing influence and extreme leadership.

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