What is influence, and why is it more important than power? The book states that influence is the ability to affect another person’s inner state – what they think, feel, and believe. More simply put, influence is the ability to make someone think about things the way you want you to think about them. This differs from power because power is the ability to make people do what you want without making them think what you want. Through research, I was able to find an article describing the differences between power and influence, but rather that talk about that, I want to focus on strictly the influence portion and why it is more important.
According to our book, there are three conditions that need to be met prior to influencing someone. The three preconditions are:
- They must be open to being influenced by you.
- You must be willing to change their inner state.
- You must be able to move them to think, feel, and/or believe differently.
I disagree with this. In my opinion, people do not need to be open to being influenced. That is the magic behind influence. If you are good enough, you can influence just about anyone, possibly without them even knowing it. I am not condoning manipulating people to do what you want them to do when they do not want to, but influence is essentially the art of manipulation. That is why some not-so-great people like Hitler and Napoleon make the list of the most influential people in history. Another example of influence being a bad thing come from one of the favorite TV shows, Game of Thrones. One of the show’s main characters is Varys. Technically, Varys holds no power in the kingdom, but in reality he is one of the most powerful men in the show. This first video shows how he feels about influence, and how powerful his is.
In case you were unable to catch it, he says this about influence. “Influence grows like a weed.
I tended mine patiently until its tendrils reached from the Red Keep all the way across to the far side of the world, where I managed to wrap them around something very special.” Varys is a master manipulator who has informants all over the world. He also is the Master of Whisperers on the king’s council. Varys knows the dirt on nearly everyone and is not afraid to use it. He seems like a very powerful man, yet in this next video, we see that all he really has is more influence than anyone. The uploader has disabled embedding, so here is the link.
In this video, we hear more about Varys’s beginnings, and his motives. We find out that he is not even the “Lord” that everyone calls him. This shows just how powerful influence can be if wielded correctly. Varys started life as nothing and rose to be one of the most feared men of the Seven Kingdoms without really having any power over anyone.
As far as my own experience with influence goes, I would have to say that I have not dealt with too much, but I can definitely think of some times that I have been influenced by someone. For example, coaches are always trying to influence their athletes to push harder. In college, I would say that the coaches do not really hold as much power over their athletes as they do influence. I know Coach Patton likes to try and influence his athletes more than he tries to use power over them. He would occasionally schedule practices that we were to do on our own time, and he would try to influence us to do them. He knew that we would become better athletes if we listened to him, but he was not going to force it on us. He trusted us to make the right decision, his decision. I think this is a good way to lead people. Yes, a leader should have power as well, but I think influence is a much more important trait when used for good reasons.