What Great Bosses Know about Power and Influence

Think back to when you made the move into management. Remember how, in your innocence, you assumed: “Now that I have the title, I have the clout to get things done!” How did that naive little notion work out for you?

I know, I know — I can hear you chuckling. Getting the title was nice. But there were all those people to deal with — from bosses to other managers to the staff you supervised — or tried to. Like most managers, you learned that getting some stripes on your sleeve didn’t guarantee that everyone would salute you.

Great bosses know — and probably learned through trial and error — how power is gained, sustained and lost. Here’s what they understand:

  • Saying “Do it because I say so” gets results … but not always the ones you want.
  • Reminding people that you’re in charge tends to make them wish you weren’t.
  • There are people on your team with no titles at all who have a knack for getting others to follow them.

That “knack” is called influence. You see, while managers have titles — plus the ability to reward and punish, those three things have limited impact. But add these elements: expertise, integrity, empathy and the ability to inspire — and you have a recipe for getting things done.

Now look again at these elements of influence:

  • Expertise; you have wisdom about the work.
  • A reputation for integrity; you live your values.
  • Empathy; you see the world through others’ eyes.
  • Inspiration; your words and actions cause people to see positive possibilities.

Did you notice that none of those are the exclusive province of bosses? I often ask newsroom managers in my seminars to describe employees who are influential. Inevitably, I hear stories about journalists who are informal leaders in the newsroom — skilled at craft, ethical and honest, willing to coach, ready to step up and lead by example every day (and especially in critical moments). They aren’t and may never want to be managers, but people choose to follow them because they are leaders.

Great bosses understand the value of their power. They can wield it like a mighty club in those moments when nothing less can move good things forward or stop bad things from happening. But day in and day out, the most powerful leaders at all levels understand that it is influence that truly gets results.

Want to know if you have influence? I’ll give you a pop quiz in today’s three-minute podcast, “What Great Bosses Know about Power and Influence”:

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.

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