Influence or Control

A friend of mine, Dave, sent me an excellent article on the merits of Influence versus Control, which was very interesting and got me thinking about this too.

I think that there is a strong correlation to the differences between Leadership and Management and the differences between Influence and Control.

When we can only influence people it requires us to inspire them, to create a strong vision, to motivate them to follow us, as they have the choice of whether they follow us or not.

Often people want to have staff directly reporting to them, as this gives them a better sense of control, as they now manage the people directly.

There is an implication that the staff have to follow their manager.

It is true as managers, that we directly manage people, that we give them clear instructions which they should follow. We also have some degree of the control over salary, promotions, bonuses, incentives, etc., which we can use to reward people for following us, or we can with hold these as a means of punishing them for non performance or non adherence to the tasks we have assigned.

But in reality control is a limiting factor for several reasons:

People always have the choice whether to follow us or not, Fear or Punishment is not really a motivator, and will only work for a short period of time. If we do not inspire people, and they need to be controlled, then they can begin to resent and resist this, usually in the form of passive resistance.

Also, we can only directly control so many people, so for each level of management between us and the people actually doing the work, our control is reduced.

Ultimately, we have no choice but to rely on influence if we want to lead or manage large groups.

In contrast to control, by using influence we can impact a significantly larger number of people.

For example, look at Gandhi, through his actions; he was able to influence over 350 million people.

By use of control it would be impossible to impact anywhere near this number, as the British found out to their cost.

In the article it says we should abandon control in order to influence people, but as I said previously, control is only an illusion, we don’t really have complete control, as people always ultimately have a choice.

So as we look to move of the leadership or management chain, then we need to focus much more on influence rather than control.