A person with power and a person with influence can often be mistaken for the same, but each has its own characteristics that make it different in its own respective way. When we think about people with power, we often think of people who have taken that position by force, whether good or bad. Our president has some power, the owners of large corporations have power, but these people also have influence. They influence people with leadership skills that they have developed over the course of their lives. It is very important to know how to develop your influence skills without being a power seeking person.
Power is often linked to force. This can be seen in any dictatorship because those people had power over the people they were governing. They did have influence in the sense that when they said to do something, people usually did it. But all of this stems from the fact that they had the overarching power behind the influence. It is important to have some power, whether you are in business or a government, but it is equally important to have control over that power. You do not want to be a too powerful person because as soon as the opportunity arises, the people around you will get you out of power quickly.
There is a lot of influence and power in business, but is there too much? Most Americans recognize that Corporate America gets much credit for the good fortunes. About two-thirds of U.S. citizens give companies credit for the country’s success, but in return, three-fourths of Americans believe that corporate power is too much. With “Big Oil”, “Big Tobacco”, “Big Pharma” ruling the country to these people, it is important to know where power stops and influence begins.
This article in Forbes lays out some easy tips on how to increase your influence on people. Note how different some of these are when linked to power.
1. Asserting- You insist that your ideas are heard and you challenge the ideas of others. This can be seen as trying to be powerful over others in the workplace, but what it does is it allows for all the ideas to be heard, but you seem like you are “in charge” in a way. Voicing your opinions on something lets the other people feel like you are knowledgeable in whatever you are talking about and in a lot of cases, knowledge is power.
2. Convincing- You put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view. Persuasion is a trait that is visible in people with power and people with influence. Being able to persuade someone to believe something is obviously part of convincing them to do that thing.
3. Negotiating- You look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest. This is where power and influence will differ. A power hungry person with just force their ideas on the business but a person with influence will let you decide that their ideas are better. It’s like they form your opinion for you based on their persuasion and negotiating powers.
4. Bridging- You build relationships and connect with others through listening understanding and building coalitions. Building relationships with people you are working with allows them to have some trust in you. Trust is a significant differing factor between power and influence. I would trust a person I have a relationship with to influence my decision rather than someone with power that I don’t have a relationship with.
5. Inspiring- You advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared purpose and exciting possibilities. You seem personable. This is what people want to work for, a personable manager, or someone in power, who has your interests in mind while also inspiring you to work hard.
In my experience with working with people in power and people with influence, some of the best people I have worked for have a healthy balance of both. I think as a manager, CEO, CIO, or even an older sibling, having a small amount of power and a larger amount of influence can go a long way. People want to work for people who have a little bit of power, but also are inspiring and want to have some sort of relationship with them.