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21 February 2021 Posted by 


Misuse of influence a sign of leaders struggling
IN any healthy workplace a strong culture means there is leadership, timely and informed decision making, good questions being asked, practices focussed on making progress and where there are clear goals and direction.
Since a humanistic culture of achievement cannot be assumed, influence may be misused.  This occurs when people without structural authority are ordered to ‘use one’s influence’ as the elixir for every problem while those in charge take no responsibility.  
As I like to envision organisations as a family of individuals united by common goals and interests, this scenario is tantamount to a household where all the children are told to self-regulate. 
There are no guidelines, boundaries or parameters of right or wrong. If you want or need anything, just use your influence.
Why Is this Prevalent?
In contemporary workplaces, fashionable language and culture include empowerment, inclusion, autonomy, diversity and freedom of choice.  
These purported attributes however when left unchecked could become undisciplined, confused aimlessness in disguise.
Influence has become a pretext for so called leaders to openly cast blame. That is, if anything does not work, the underlings must have failed to use their influence.
Beware of Such Symptoms
The misuse of influence is a tell-tale sign that either the leaders have lost the plot or are struggling.
Influence is not a substitute for direction and leadership. Yet such misuse is designed to give the unaware and impressionable a false sense of empowerment, opportunity and flexibility when managers or leaders are actually clueless or simply don’t want to be seen making unpopular decisions. They are amoebic and take no position and have no accountability.
This strategic twist on the meaning of influence benefits the leaders. If the unsupported efforts of staff happen to work, management can take credit for creating and fostering a culture of influence and empowerment. 
However, if they fail, clearly this demonstrates their inability to influence and they can be weeded out of the organisation. Either result is a perceived win that protects the so-called leader.
Influence is Not A Dirty Word – We Need it More than Ever
Our world is undergoing rapid, momentous change, and this provides us with a compelling reason for developing greater skills in influencing others while simultaneously accepting different and varied forms of influence. I shall discuss this in my upcoming article on innovation.
Although we have physically spent time apart, we may continue to seek opportunity to learn from new relationships, absorb fresh information, draw on influences from varied sources and consider a different perspective.
This is an era of great opportunity for a new approach to work and living.
In case you are wondering, the environment where I described a misuse of influence did indeed have a problem with its leadership. Those at the top eventually departed. 
This demise was a consequence of their own incompetence and zero care factor towards staff and customers alike.Or perhaps they were unskilled at being influential leaders.
In the longer-term, smoke and mirrors can only be sustainable for a finite period. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
In these challenging times, it is favourable to maintain a healthy belief that what is right, truthful and fair do eventually prevail. We must not lose faith that the world is a good place.  However, belief can only take us so far.  
Influence is something we can all work towards achieving or increasing The fact that we may use influence for a positive outcome that many will benefit from is both rewarding and satisfying.
Although what is right and honourable can be subjective, companies and organisations that have stood the test of time are ones which improve the quality of life for its customers and nurture the career paths of employees, no matter how modest or great.
If I have made you think and heightened your awareness of the power of influence, then I am happy. Writing about the truth is my passion.  
Most of all, I have constructively used my influence.
Maria Fok has experience in ASX-listed, government and global organisations. She writes and speaks about innovation, leadership and how to accelerate success.


Michael Walls
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