Throughout our lives there will always be people trying to exercise some level of authority and influence over us. Parents, for example, begin this process when we are still quite young, and a few never seem to learn when to loosen their grip over the various aspects of our lives they deem as important.
We have probably all encountered the pushy salesperson who ignores our wishes as he or she pressures us to buy a certain model of car or brand of appliance. Too many of us work for leaders whose opinions and perspectives seem to always rule the day. Regardless of how competent these persons are, their ability to engage and inspire us will always be limited.
Today’s internet and social media driven culture allows anyone who posts a blog or manages a Facebook or Twitter account to instantly use it as a platform to try and influence the rest of us with their arguments. Some never seem to learn that respecting differing viewpoints is one way to actually enhance these efforts.
What might happen if leaders seeking influence were also willing to acknowledge and respect the many disparate ways other persons approach issues? Instead of simply digging in their heels, suppose those same leaders found common ground and praised the salient points presented by their opponents? Imagine if that pushy salesperson mentioned earlier had thoughtfully asked you questions and guided your decision-making by carefully listening to your needs and wants?
In a world where money and power are typically sought as the primary means of influence, it is often the leader who has learned how to respect others’ opinions and find ways to work with their opposition that ultimately accomplishes the most. Brute force and arrogant blaming only make leaders look small and selfish.
I have always tried to encourage those who show promise and raw talent, even when their competence is in areas where I am deficient. In the end, I need their engagement and commitment more than holding on to control. Influential leadership isn’t built by assuming those you lead are idiots. It prospers through mutual respect for differing ideas and opinions. I hope you feel free to disagree.