Some men see things as they are and say, “why?”. I dream things that never were and say, “why not” (George Bernard Shaw).
Gary Kent is the Chief Executive Officer of a brand management company in London. Gary and I have been well acquainted for a few years and have had the opportunity of forging some collaborative ventures, as well as speaking together as facilitators at two separate leadership workshops in South Africa. Gary who is an expert on personal branding has a simple theory and notion about leadership branding. His belief is that everybody is a potential leader, because everyone can from time to time have the opportunity to influence another person or a group of people.
Gary’s belief is that anyone that succeeds in any way to influence you to do something has at that moment “led” you to behave in a certain way, due to his personal influence. According to Gary Kent, “leadership hardly extends beyond leading by influencing”. This is because the greatest level of leadership is exerted and demonstrated through personal influence. Personal influence in this regard is the ability to effectively communicate messages to other people in a manner that they not only understand and accept, but also become persuaded to take action.
It appears quite obvious that the personal brand of every potential leader that has the opportunity to influence others is what effectively determines the impact that such an influence can have on his people. Without a doubt, it is people (followers) that help to build the personal brand of their leaders. This is clearly through acceptance of the leaders’ personal influence. In other words, no one can successfully influence another person without the “power” to influence being available and utilised.
Making a distinction between power and influence may at this point be worthwhile, so that the relationship and link between the two, as well as the effective utilisation of both can be ensured. In broad terms, influence is a process. Power on the other hand is a manageable resource. Specifically, influence is a process that enables someone to alter the thoughts, behaviour, and/or actions of another person or a group of people. Power in this case is the resource that enables the person to influence others. Power is therefore the currency of influence.
Importantly, personal influence is active and dynamic. It can increase in value and effect, just as it can dwindle or be whittled down. It can build people and processes up and it can break others down. Thus, to exercise influence, a leader must possess some kind of power. Without it, leadership cannot be truly exerted, regardless of the techniques or methods of influence adopted. That is why leadership branding is so important, because it is what projects the leader as a person of influence and potential impact. It is however up to the follower(s) to recognise, appreciate, understand and embrace the leadership brand and be subject to its influence.
Leadership influence is best demonstrated by the ability of the leader to move people to do something about what they know, understand and believe in. It is the means by which a leader modifies the behaviour, attitudes, and actions of others. Leadership influence is therefore only possible because the leader has received the power of control from the people that are being influenced. As a result of this knowledge, every coaching engagement that concerns positive leadership impact focuses largely on the factors that contribute to a leader’s level of influence.
These include among others, factors such as personal knowledge, creativity, empathy, resilience, trust, and perception. It is these factors that an experienced leadership coach would seek to facilitate in the course of the coaching process. The truth of the matter is that the extent to which a leader can influence people is the extent to which he will lead the people. Influence precedes impact, and leadership styles impact (positively or negatively) on the lives of people much more than several other factors.
A leader of people must therefore be cautious and wary of how power is obtained. Is it freely given by others or adopted by an established leadership succession system? Is it generated through a democratic process, or simply grabbed by superior force? The success or failure of leadership through influence can thus be greatly shaped by the methods and processes that give rise to that leadership. All of these again go back to the issue of leadership vision and impact.
The great leaders over the ages have been those that seemed to have been blessed with the ability to see the future that is unseen by others. They become great by also being able to apprehend their vision through a strong belief system and personal communication skills. Obviously, to envision is to take a mental journey from the known into the unknown. It is to arrive at the future and perceive it clearly while still living in the present. It is inconceivable for true leadership to be separated from this perception. Leadership coaching simply helps to give meaning and purpose to the journey. You can read more about the transformational power of coaching at www.ceedcoaching.com.