Four Reasons Why Leaders Lack Influence by Joseph Grenny


DeM Banter: interesting read…only a small portion of the actual article at the link below. I ponder what this says about the state of leadership and leadership education. Do these leaders want to be poor leaders? Or is there a chance they simply don’t know any better? What can we do to address?

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Given that few leaders can even define leadership, it’s no surprise their performance is mediocre at best. We studied the successes and failures of more than 1000 leaders from 50 global companies to influence strategically critical behavior change in their companies. We were stunned to discover that fewer than one in 20 had any evidence of success in spite of their belief that change was crucial. As we combed through the data, some key insights emerged that helped us understand why so few leaders either grasp or exert influence well:

1. Leaders act as if it’s not their job to address entrenched habits.

Most leaders put a great deal of time into crafting strategy, selecting winning products, and engaging with analysts, shareholders, and major customers. But few realize the success or failure of their grand schemes lies in influencing the behavior of the people who will have to execute on the big ideas—their employees.

By contrast, the most influential leaders—the 5 percent who succeed at changing behavior—spend as much as half of their time thinking about, and actively, influencing the behaviors they know will lead to top performance. The 95 percent who dither and fail tend to delegate what they dismiss as “change management” to others.

2. Leaders lack a theory of influence.

Very few leaders can even answer the question, “How do you change the behavior of a large group of people?” And yet, what they’re ultimately paid to do is align people to execute on decisions. Imagine discovering, just as the anesthesia is taking effect, that your heart surgeon—the one hovering over your chest with a scalpel—is working off a “gut hunch” about how to conduct a bypass. Unless leaders become articulate about a repeatable and effective way to influence behavior—they’ll continue to rack up predictably high failure rates at leading change.

3. Leaders confuse talking with influencing.

Many leaders think influence consists of little more than talking people into doing things. It’s no wonder most influence efforts start with PowerPoint presentations or rallies. But profound, persistent, and overwhelming problems demand more than verbal persuasion. Anyone who’s ever tried to “talk” a smoker into quitting knows there’s a lot more to behavior change than words.

4. Leaders believe in silver bullets.

When leaders actually attempt to influence new behavior, they commonly fall into the trap of thinking deeply ingrained bad habits can be changed with a single technique.

They host star-studded retreats and hand out inspiring posters and think people will line up for change. Still others believe it’s all about incentives and so they tinker with the performance management system or tie new behaviors to executive bonuses. The research shows that when leaders rely on just one simple source of influence (like training or incentives or verbal persuasion) to drive change, they almost always fail.

Read the entire article

2 Replies to “Four Reasons Why Leaders Lack Influence by Joseph Grenny”

  1. This is interesting sir… I like the definition the COO of Chick-fil-a threw out there. “Leadership is intentional influence.” When we are looking at traits to teach our young ones, I think this is one that is definitely measurable. It’s also mentorable. Not everyone is a born leader (in my opinion) but with proper education and mentorship, you can create a very effective leader. Which leads me to my opinion on the answer to your questions above. Not all leaders are given the same tools and a lot just lack the education or mentorship to become more effective leaders. In alot of ways, I feel like luck is heavily involved in how some people get into some positions. Not that they don’t deserve them but when you’re climbing the corporate ladder, there’s alot of timing and luck involved. If you work hard at the job you’re given, you progress. We (the public) hope as he/she climbs, training is involved but that’s only part of it. Leaders need to be educated… but then they need to be mentored in how to apply that training.
    I don’t think the majority of “leaders” want to fail. I just think they’re not a) trained or b) mentored.

    1. Agree Kevin
      Leadership is Influence was originally from John Maxwell…good read, any of his books…highly recommend.

      My thoughts…leadership education has to be very deliberate and very intentional, right now it is not, but the biggest payback comes from creating leaders in your wake…but it takes a greater good leader to realize that and it take a culture that supports that as well…

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