Influence occurs when a person’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. It is an important component of a leader’s ability to use power and maintain respect in an organization. Influence is apparent in the form of peer pressure, socialization, conformity, obedience, and persuasion. The ability to influence is an important asset for leaders, and it is also an important skill for those in sales, marketing, politics, and law.
In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance involves people behaving the way others expect them to whether they agree with doing so or not. Obeying the instructions of a crossing guard or an authority figure is an example of compliance. Identification is when people behave according to what they think is valued by those who are well-liked and respected, such as a celebrity. Status is a key aspect of identification: when people purchase something highly coveted by many others, such as the latest smartphone, they are under the influence of identification. Internalization is when people accept, either explicitly or privately, a belief or set of values that leads to behavior that reflects those values. An example is following the tenets of one’s religion.
There can be no leadership without influence, because influencing is how leaders lead. In the classic book on leadership, Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus echo this point. There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. An essential factor in leadership is the capacity to influence.
Managers also use influence, of course, because only a fraction of managerial work can actually be accomplished through control and the use of authority. The aim of both managers and leaders is to accomplish an organization’s goals.
In this TED Talk, Drew Dudley talks about the influence of everyday leadership.