The pandemic has brought much into our lives. The labour market has been completely disrupted, and expectations and preferences have emerged from employees and employers that we had either not encountered before or were simply not in focus. But the biggest change is that factors that were previously silenced or inappropriate to talk about have started to be discussed in the business community. There is no story; there is a crisis. And there is a huge fight for really skilled labour in the markets, so there is no time to cover up the dirty laundry. Of these new factors, the leading one is definitely influence/manipulation, which has clearly become the main theme of organisational development over the last two years.
It is quite clear and accepted that some people have a tremendous influence on others, others can influence their environment under certain circumstances, and some simply do not have this ability. It is a personality trait, and for this very reason, it should not be overrated, because it is not something that one has learned or suffered for; it is simply a personality trait. It’s another question of what techniques you can use to bring it out into the open, and these techniques can be learned, but it’s important to remember, even though it may be offensive to many people, that you can either influence people or you can’t.
There’s not much you can do about that; you have to accept it, because the techniques you learn only work in a state of calm, and in business, having both the sender and the receiver in a state of calm at the same time and space is not something that happens very often these days. It is no accident that this topic has become more popular in the last two years than we could ever have imagined before. Because we are now in a crisis since the lockdowns took place – and that is now more than two years ago – so a situation of calm is only an ideal vision for many. So many leaders have failed because they were convinced that they were having a huge impact on their colleagues, and on their company, but those impacts have been wiped out. It’s no wonder, they never really had it. They learned the communication tricks, how to play roles, the outwardly visible games, but the ability to influence, the real gift, comes from the personality, and developing it permanently is a very difficult task. It is very important to note here that the higher a leader rises, the more they believe that what they have learned works, because subordinates make them believe it. But don’t confuse “influence” with power, because you can get a very serious slap in the face from life. For example, if you have a colleague in your team or organisation who really has the ability to influence. Someone who doesn’t have to pretend, and who, without any serious effort, can, as they say, “shoot from the hip”, which is why their manager has been struggling for years. Well, this is when a manager considers a colleague to be indispensable, and the team and often the company’s results are almost trumped by the presence of the influencing colleague, and when an external expert shows a mirror to this, the “I have known this colleague for years” comment is naturally made, and the expert’s opinion obviously becomes unfounded. Then, of course, comes the realisation – because it always comes – that an external opinion should have been listened to, that the colleague should at least have started to be seen through a different lens, and not as the driving force and saviour of the team, without whom the organisation would certainly collapse.
It is important to be aware that if you are a leader, you have a real capacity to influence and manipulate, because if you overvalue yourself – the owners of this factor never undervalue themselves, so this is out of the question – then your team, your organisation, will start to control you. And the result is that you sit in the driver’s seat always afraid that the best people will leave.