Influence Versus Power

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I think about influence and power on a regular basis.

I was always embarrassed about my job when I worked in Human Resources. If I wasn’t in the middle of some stupid project or compliance issue, I was traveling to a remote part of the country (or world) to lay people off. I had little power and very little influence—but I had a nice paycheck that went to consumer items to distract me from how little meaning I had in my life.

When I left HR, I wanted to write and consult. Over the past three years I’ve discovered that I still don’t have much power. I have influence over a small subset of the HR community, but the change is slow & small. I measure the improvements to the world of HR by a shift in semantics and relationships. I’ve made a little progress, but there is so much more work to do.

I’m in this for the long run, though. My blog has been a vehicle to mainstream news outlets, and my message eeks out slowly to a larger community. I think this blog gives me a platform to change the future of work. I just haven’t figured out the details, yet.

So I have some thoughts on influence and power. I’d like to share them, and I would like to hear your response and your insights.

  • I think most people overstate their influence.
  • I think power is most effective when you surround yourself with smart and influential people who can advise and guide you.
  • There are many people who feel that it’s okay to be influential and are willing to abdicate power, and I think those people are suckers.

It’s nice to be influential, but it’s also easy. It’s harder to be accountable for change. Leaders are the ones who seize the platform and are willing to fail in an attempt to make a difference and change things.

I wonder what you are doing, if anything, to take the reigns and be accountable for something bigger. Or do you prefer to influence in a more subtle way?

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