One of my priorities for the new year is to really study what it means to be an influencer.  The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of material on the topic.  Over the past couple years, I’ve read two books related to influence:

– Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson (and others)
– The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas by G. Richard Shell, Mario Moussa

I liked each book – but they both focused primarily on how to get unwilling people to do what you want.  While exerting your will is certainly one path to influence, I believe that the essence of influence is about more than Machiavellian tactics.  It’s about working collaboratively to find the optimal solution to a problem.

The issue with more dictatorial approaches to influence is that you might not have all the information you need to make the best decision.  Influence is just as much about structuring a problem, listening and learning, and working through issues as it is about telling people what to do.

However, being too collaborative is also problematic.  Inviting everyone to make a collective decision can promote team engagement, but it can also take a long time and cause unnecessary organizational churn.

One of my goals for 2013 is to learn more about influence.

Perhaps I can start here – what do you think it means to be an influencer?

What does it mean to be an influencer?
  • This is a classic and not directly related but I think it has some powerful ideas: http://www.amazon.com/Positioning-Battle-Your-Anniversary-Edition/dp/0071359168/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1358741566&sr=8-1

    Also, this is another classic, but pretty darn good. I think every salesperson should read this (actually, I think only AppNexus sales people should read it): http://www.amazon.com/Solution-Selling-Creating-Difficult-Markets/dp/0786303158/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358741622&sr=1-1&keywords=solution+selling

    I guess I’m giving you resources on how to change behavior and perception. I’m not sure it’s dictatorial, but it’s certainly powerful,

  • Amazing – thanks so much Brian!

  • Andrew, I share an interest in defining what it means to be an influencer. While there is a vast amount of opinions, of which the majority contradict one another, I think it would be more beneficial to explore the result of being an influencer – as opposed to the causes resulting in being categorized as one. 

    For example, I am reading Daniel Pink’s new book, “To Sell is Human”.  It shares a unique perspective on today’s society and discusses how to *move someone – changing his/her perception. Quite similar to the actions of influencers…

    Not directly related, but worth adding to your list. Looking forward to reading about your findings!

  • This is great – thanks Keith!  Looks like i have some reading to do :)

  • > Influence is just as much about structuring a problem, listening and learning, and working through issues as it is about telling people what to do.

    I think you’re conflating influence and decision-making, frankly. Taking a word and using it in different ways can be useful, but saying “Well, <> also involves X, Y, and Z, therefore to TRULY understand <> we must also study X, Y, and Z – therefore > actually COMPRISES X, Y, and Z” is not a useful exercise. 

    Influence means – everywhere I’ve seen it / checked – capable of (significantly) influencing the decision matrix of someone else. 

    It doesn’t have a value valence, e.g. you can use influence to do good things or bad things. If you try to pack an examination of those good/bad things into an examination of influence, I’m not sure how successful you’ll be.

  • Fair enough – reading too much into the meaning of words can definitely be a trap.  After all, words don’t really MEAN anything – it’s how they’re interpreted that’s important, right?