Recently my friend was in an argument with her teenager. She wanted her daughter to stop watching so much YouTube and read. The teen pushed back, arguing and asking why. My friend was tired and used the dreaded phrase, “Because I said so!” Ugh… that’s never effective – especially with a teenager! In that split second, my friend was using her power and not her influenceShe used her power to manipulate obedience from her kid. What parent hasn’t?  

Unfortunately, we see this play out every day in many situations – even the workplace. Power brings temporary obedience but permanent bitterness.  

When my friend cooled off, she came back to her teen and explained her reasoning: Her daughter had watched hours of videos without doing chores or even looking away from her iPad. She shared with her concerns about her health, her mental development and experiences outside of a screen. The teen, though still frustrated, was able to understand and actually asked her mom for more information about her reasons. So, when my friend turned from forcing her will through the use of power, she instead gained respect through thoughtful influence 

When we demand change, using our power to make people obey, the actions aren’t heartfelt. There’s no buy-in, only bitterness or anger. The change happens, but it’s temporary and doesn’t become part of the fiber of true transformation. When people understand the need to change, and can see it’s built on influence and out of genuine need then you get loyalty and, dare I say, excitement?  

So, how do you know if you’re using power or influence in your everyday interactions? Motive. It always comes down to motive. Like Steven Covey’s time-tested advice: Seek first to understand, if you aren’t making the time to create understanding then you may be using manipulation.   

Are you asking your team or telling them? Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times we have to say, “Because I said so” if the decision-making is confidential – but even then, a team built on trust and not manipulation is likely to understand your need for discretion as long as you are open about the confidentiality. If you have built up their trust, they will know you are doing the best things possible 

Chances are some of the most influential people in your organization aren’t those with the biggest titles. Power players rely on obedience through threats and intimidation – verbal or implied. But influence is voluntary loyalty and encouragement. 

Power shows insecurity and usually micromanagement. Influence realizes there is a team and it takes a village to make change stick. Power dictates; influence engages in conversation. You can see where power and influence can also impact the bottom line: loyalty vs forced obedience.  

Here are the key pieces to becoming an influencer vs a controller – and you’ll see they aren’t “boss” qualities, but relationship qualities 

  1. Develop patience. Easier said than done, right? Be consistent and predictable in your behavior, leadership and actions. Inconsistency creates tension and distrust.  
  2. Be nice. Remember, 70 percent of communication is tone. Are you watching your body language, tone and inflection? Not everyone loves or appreciates sarcasm. Leave it for one-on-one moments where you are sure of a relationship. What works in one setting may not work in another.  
  3. Be humble. There’s a difference between being proud of your accomplishments and being prideful; confident vs cocky. Pride and arrogance result in power, not influenceArrogance indicates your insecurity as a leader, in relationships and community organizations 
  4. Show respect. Considering others’ opinions before offering your own. Not over-talking or interrupting others is also a sign of influential leadership.  
  5. Give back. Don’t just look for people when you need themBe there. Like the saying goes – to have friends, be a friend.  
  6. Be vulnerable. You’re human. And so are others. Give forgiveness and ask for it.