Influential Leadership Part 2

Parimala Hariprasad’s Influential Leadership article continues below. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Influencing Strategies

How do we influence people? Robert B. Cialdini, author of “Influence: Science and Practice lists six influential strategies that can be used to influence people.

Liking: We like attractive people and those who are like us or have common attributes.

If we like someone, there is a high probability that we will help that person more than once.

How to Influence: Become likeable and familiar. Dress for Dignity and Integrity. Work on your body language. Deal with humans like they are humans.

Reciprocity: We repay in kind

People feel obligated to the ambience around them. When someone smiles at you, you smile back. People repay. If you get an invite for someone’s birthday party, you respond by inviting them for one of your kin’s birthday party.

How to Influence: Be the first to give. Do a favor before you ask for one. Giving gives more power over people who you may want to influence.

Social proof: We follow the lead of similar or superior others

People follow herd mentality. It feels secure to be in a group instead of feeling alone in the middle of an over-occupied soccer stadium. People are scared to get out of the crowd because they fear one thing or the other. This herd mentality can be used to influence people by finding a role model, quoting great work and saying, ‘Hey, Look. Someone has already done great work in this area. See if it helps.’ A seed of goodness is sown right there.

How to Influence: Show examples of good work in the society and encourage people to contribute or join hands.

Commitment/Consistency: We align with previous commitments.

Have you ever wondered how many times you thought you were right after making an important decision? Once you make a decision, you commit to it by saying, ‘I know I did the right thing’. People align with previous commitments. They expect a consistency in the way they think or handle challenges in life.

How to Influence: Make people commit to your vision by discussing it and highlighting what’s in it for them.

Scarcity/Exclusivity: We want more when access is restricted—enhanced by exclusivity

Have you noticed ads saying, ‘Clothing Sale, Up to 50% Off, Ends in two days’. Indirectly, they are saying, ‘our clothing prices are optimum and will last for two days. If you are delayed, you lose’. They are creating a sense of urgency in people to rush them into their stores. They are giving limited time (two days) to decide. The advertisers are creating a scarcity situation.

Scarcity can be used to make a positive impact too. Highlighting unique features and providing access to exclusive information makes people sense a feeling of ‘I belong here.’ It makes them *feel* powerful.

How to Influence: Emphasize on genuine scarcity and pique people’s curiosity. Start with, ‘You are the first person to….’ or ‘Here is a little secret I want to share….’

Authority: We defer to authority or expertise

If your manager asked you to take up some work that you think has unrealistic deadlines, most of the time, you will take it up just because your BOSS, an evil demon said so. Your boss is using authority to force you to do things you wouldn’t do otherwise.

Gandhi used his authority (in a sweet manner) to influence Indians to fight for independence in a non-violent way. While there was ruthlessness in the way he made an entire nation put their heads to British Lathis, what mattered in Gandhi’s case was the purpose. His purpose was to bring freedom to India. He successfully influenced people in a positive way.

How to Influence: Use authority to influence people when people are unable to accept a genuine change. Use this strategy only if all else fails.

Backdoor Influencing (Influencing without Authority)

Influential leadership is particularly hard when leaders don’t have any power or authority over people who need to be influenced. In such cases, one can’t rely on oneself to influence people. He must take help from other influential leaders. Sometimes, he may need to use back-doors to influence people.

Backdoor Influencing refers to influencing people by nudging them to change rather than coaxing. This is a conscious attempt by the leader to bring about a change in people without making them aware of it. It may involve creating an ambience where they relax and speak their heart out OR allow them to interact with their role models in the organization OR give them an opportunity to lead in a similarly challenging situation OR simply showing great examples of influential leadership without putting them down. This influencing strategy is handy to influence people across different departments in organizations and takes a lot of time to build as a skill.

Becoming Influential

Ram was ahead of many people in terms of spotting problems early on. He made every possible attempt to fix them by influencing the team.

Leaders are not egoistic about finding or solving all problems. They figure out a way to solve important problems quickly and facilitate progress. Ideally, they would build a team of people who are leaders in their own right. Leaders influence teams to an extent that at some point, the team no longer needs them. They must have influenced leaders to influence their teams well enough. They would have made teams powerful enough to bypass them someday.

No one influential strategy works at any point in time. One or more strategies need to be combined and tested in rough waters before it works most of the times with most people. These influential strategies can be used in both good and bad ways. Think of Gandhi, for instance. It’s up to the leader to use these strategies effectively to create a positive impact.

Influential leaders must show the way, walk their own path and light others’ path along the way.

If you have a story to tell, we’d love to hear about it. Send it to us here!

About the Author

Parimala Hariprasad is the Master Shifu at Moolya. She coaches testers and helps them work on their awesomeness. She works with young and fresh minds who have the potential to sprout the seed of skilled software testing to a giant tree that benefits the world. She has extensive experience in testing, leading and coaching testing teams. She is a strong believer of team work and helps teams work together tow+ards a common end goal. She frequently rants about her experiences at You can connect with her on LinkedIn or write to her at She would love to coach you on Skype at parimala.shankaraiah. She is also available on twitter at @CuriousTester.

Thanks to Steven Smith, Johanna Rothman and Jari Laakso for help in reviewing this article.

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