Inluencing People: The Process
A process is a chain of steps or actions, all connected, with each step adding value. For example, building a house is a process: irst you gather all the materials, then you build a foundation, then you build a loor, then you build the walls, then you build the ceiling, and so on. Each of these steps adds value to the house you are building. Each is part of logical chain of
activities. And each step in the process of building a house has its own steps: hammering nails, carrying materials, painting the walls, and so on. The process of leading – that is, inluencing others – has many value-add steps, as well as systems and subsystems. In this book you will encounter extensive discussions about this.
Leading by process is very different from leading from a position in a hierarchy. At DuPont Canada and at many other companies in the 1980s, the focus was on hierarchical leadership. As part of the evolution towards “Everyone a Leader,” we shifted our focus from positional leadership to a more developmental, process-oriented form. This process-oriented way of leading is the essence of the message you will read about in this book. Carol, in our opening story, was a catalytic, process-oriented leader in a company that up to that point had emphasized positional, hierarchical leadership.
Many, many people are tied to the notion that a leader is, quite simply, a position in a hierarchy. In many, perhaps in most groups and organizations, be they proit-oriented or not-for-proit, people progress up a variety of hierarchical ladders. Consider the progression from junior engineer, to senior engineer, to supervisor of a small group of engineers, to manager of a larger group, and then to the much-desired “leader” designation. This progress, which is measured in terms of pay and relative authority, relects the positional deinition of leadership.
By contrast, the premise of this book is that, in fact, a leader is someone who engages in leading – who “does” leading by engaging in leadership activities in a disciplined and systematic manner. Furthermore, those leadership activities can take place anywhere in an organization, at any level of its hierarchy. Leading is as likely to occur, and leadership is as likely to be encountered on a shop loor as in the executive suite. This process deinition of leading and leadership will be thoroughly investigated and advocated in this book.
What, then, is successful inluencing? What causes people to agree to make positive change in their organization and, by inference, in themselves?
There are three main points to bear in mind regarding how leaders can inluence or catalyse people to accept a new direction.
The link between admiration and inluence can be strong. People admire others for many reasons – physical, social, emotional, and mental intelligences are involved in varying degrees. People are more easily inluenced by those they admire. Much depends, quite simply, on the leader's competence. This verges on a tautology: if you as a potential follower recognize a person as a leader – that is, if you admire that person's leadership competence – you will allow yourself to be led by that person.
I learned about this very early in my career. After a few years in DuPont Canada, I was given a irst-level managerial role. That was an exciting time for me. I had been assigned a group of people as well as speciic objectives, and now I had to achieve results through the efforts of these people whom I barely knew. So to start with, using my authority as a manager – as an aspiring leader – I ordered them to do certain things. Most of the people said “Yes!” Some said nothing. The work was completed over a few months, but the project was a failure.
I had just learned a valuable lesson about leadership: If you want people to accomplish extraordinary things, you have to earn admiration for your leadership.
Ordering people to do things is easy; inluencing them is hard. But inluencing them always generates more successful outcomes. Often, when people are ordered to do things, they say “yes” but then go into a mode of behaviour that is really “no sir” or “on my terms, sir.” This is “closet rejection.” When a less competent leader discovers less than satisfactory results, only then does he reap the consequences of poor leading. And often the less competent leader will blame his own failure on the incompetence of his followers. “If only the people were better,” he tells himself, “then the results would have been better.” And he responds by ordering them to do it again, and the project fails again, and so on.
All of which generates this question: Can a person learn to be an admired leader, a competent leader, a role model leader? The answer is yes, and part two of this book will describe in detail how role model leadership can be learned.