Leading With Power or Influence?

Defining what a leadership is can be a tricky thing to do since each people have different views in mind. According to mindtools.com, there are countless of version about how people interpret the word “leadership”. Some example are:

  • Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things.
  • Leaders are people who do the right things
  • Leaders set example for those below him to follow.

Yet, among those definitions on the internet, I have to admit that this one below sounds much better (and definitely much more ‘honest’) than any other philosophical definitions people tend to interpret.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

With that being said, neither of the 3 interpretations that I wrote above are wrong. Leaders set the direction, put an example, and manage those around him to do the right things. Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way. And let’s be honest. As simple as it may sound, leadership is never easy no matter how effortlessly some leaders appear to manage. It is because not only one’s path is filled with obstacles and surprises, but also to the fact that leaders are trying to ‘control’ people’s ego to satisfy their own ego.

This brief introduction raise several question in mind. However, I would like to focus this posts to share my insights on “How to get someone else to do what we want?”. I didn’t say that I am an expert on this. Many institutions and scientists have done a scientific research and wrote pages of paper/journal on this particular tropic using a reliable method which will probably generate a more accurate answer to the topic than you will find on this one.

That still doesn’t stop me from writing this post, though..



So, how is it again that we can get someone else do what we want?

A great friend of mine once said that there can only be four reasons why followers obey their leaders. First, they are looking for protection. The word ‘protection’ here can be interpreted in many ways. One of the most common situation is that they believe by obeying their leaders, they may be able to avoid the rage of their leaders, live by a sufficient amount of salary, and avoiding an awkward work situations in which it may limit their growth.

As weird as it is to say, this point leads to the second and the third reason. Trust and hope. Followers will follow their leaders only if they believe that the leader can get them through the hardships, whether it be on personal level or organizational. The problem is that building a trusting relationship has never been easy. This process could take months or years and can be achieved through variety of ways. And while they are trusting their leaders, followers normally have hope that they wish to be realised once they follow their leaders. The combination of both points created a faith and once people have faith on their leaders, it will generate both optimism and a higher productivity.

The last point is compassion. Yes, some people are also looking for compassion. People want leaders who care about them as people. When an employee or member feel as if someone cares, not only are they more engaged and productive, but they’ll also stay around longer.



Judging from how it went so far, I am pretty sure that we all can agree on one thing. Everybody, no matter how low are they on the management’s pyramid, has their own egos. Yes. You are not the only one who need one’s ego to be fed. I am pretty confident about this because I have experienced a situation where the ego of my employee(s) interfered with everyone’s interest. And trust me, there was nothing pleasant from that situation, nor I ever dreamed to be in that situation ever again (although I very likely will be).

There are variety of ways to achieve this state. To give them ‘protection’, a leader will likely give promising incentives, a promotion, or even an ultimatum/punishment so that they can perform harder to avoid mistakes. In one sense, that is a leader using its power to ‘force’ his employees or members to do what he wants. And like it or not, the method has proven to be quite effective, even in some of the world’s famous company or a state owned enterprise.

But a new theory rises recently. ‘Power’ can expire. As you probably wonder how it may happen, let me put it this way. With power, you can give something your member or employee desires. Giving them something they want means that you have fed their egos so that they can do something that might feed your ego in the future. But, human can easily get bored by nature. They will never want to settle for less unless thay have no choice and that might possibly happen to anyone.

Using your power will lead people to follow you because they have to, not because they want to.

Using your ‘power’ to make someone do their job is the shortcut to make everything easier for you as you don’t feel the need to think what your members think about you. Having power often make leaders think that their members need them more than they need them. As a leader (or manager), you think you have done your part to give them reward, and so they are. But as the time goes by, they will probably have all their needs satisfied.

You may have made them feel protected. But you haven’t satisfy their needs (or ego?) to feel compassion and faith from you. This makes them not feeling any connection and interpersonal relationship with their leader. Rather than treat them like a normal human being, you build a very professional relationship with your members where they will get reward and punishment for the peformance they have shown throughout the period. While it is already proven that this type of relationship may very well work effectively in a fast moving industry, it also has its downside. It makes them easier to come and go.

“So, what are the holy grail to reach the ideal state?”

Surprise. There is none.

Rather than using one of the method, I prefer to combine using both ‘power’ and ‘influence’ to help our leadership task. John Maxwell says, “That leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less”. Influencing others is the key to leadership. This is a great quote to remember because the essential quality of a leader is having and maintaining influence. Leaders are leaders because they have positive influence over others and that should never change anytime soon.

However, using influence to lead is even harder because the process would take months or even years to complete. The main idea is that a leader must position themselves as someone who are quite influential in his follower’s live that they will gladly obey what you because they realize that you know exactly what they need. There are variety of ways to do this. Here are some example:

  • Let go of your pride
  • Have and share a compelling vision of the future.
  • Get to know the people you lead.
  • Recognize and reward your people.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Always be growing your leadership lid.
  • Be a mentor leader.
  • Connect people to others.
  • Maintain your values and beliefs.

As cliche as it may sound, the ability to lead with your influence has a lot to do with your image, people’s perception about you, and the faith they put on you. Your past or work history may very well determine whether this method will be succesful or not. And contrary to how the power works, having an influence will lead your members or employees to follow you not because they have to, but because they want to. And in the long run, it will create a notable difference to the organizations’ sustainability.




Surprisingly, using your influence might work not only when you are the leader of an organization/company, but can also be done when you are just a staff. Forget it, I even proved it to be succesful once when I was trying to communicate my ideas with a potential customer.

Earlier this year, I worked on a social project with several of my college friends to participate in a sociopreneur competition. Having attended the networking session within the event, I tried to pitch my ideas and projects to one of the angel investor in that same room. Having realized that it was probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I decided to present my ideas and elaborate how my project will benefit them in the long run. However, the short response afterwards literally killed me in silence.

“Your project might be profitable.. But that is all your opinion.”

That was the moment where I felt like my existence was unfortunately irrelevant to my surroundings. I had no words to reply that sentence as I was strucked by an utter disbelief that the project plan that I have worked with my friends for several weeks can be so easily rejected. Fortunately, I also realized my mistake on the same night.


The situations above are very common to see in daily basis. We often think that we know the solution to every problem, and confidently say that our solution and opinon are the best that can be offered to the table. But rather than getting people to think that you are smart and a great problem solver, you will be known to have less influence in other people’s live simply because people think you haven’t put your feet on their shoes and you can’t possibly know it all. So, why should they put their faith on you?

The same thing happened to me that night. I confidently offer a project that (in my opinion) might solve the investor’s problem. But the thing is, I haven’t see things from their watch. I had little to zero idea about their problem, and everything that happened afterwards were supposed to be expected.


A week after, I decided to change my approach at the networking session. Rather than doing a tricky elevator pitch where you instantly introduce yourself and present your ideas, I tried to have a little chat with the one that I was targetting. This way, I will probably have more ideas about the problem that people I targeted encounter right now.

I then changed my approach using an introduction where I used to say that my work/project was highly influenced from the problem that people face today. After that, I tried to elaborate my project in a simillar manner with the one I used a week earlier.

“First, I would like to say that this idea is not completely new nor innovative. I was just very inspired by the problem that you faced right now and we tried to make the world a better place using our project. However, we realized that our project still have lots of weakness and we expect you to give your advices and insights so that this project can give a bigger impact to the society.”

Not much different to the week earlier, the response they gave was also surprising to say the least. Fortunately, it is surprising in a good way. They became highly interested with my project and one of the gentleman (probably in his 20’s) said that this is “the project they have been waiting for” and it will “give a great benefit to its stakeholders”.

Saying these words have some unmatchable advantages, one of them is allowing you to have people seeing you not only as a talker, but also as a man who walk the talk. You tried to told them that you have been on their shoes, which adds to another reason why people should put their fath and trust on you. They know you know what you are doing and they have hope that you can get them through the hard times.

Simply put, this situation will make it easier for you to have your crew/member/employee do something that you want done. However, it is all your decision to determine which method fits your case best.

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