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Not Every Leader Must Must Have Influencing Skills

Leadership gurus always fail to look at the bigger picture; the team. So, they come up with nonsense that fails rather quickly in their application, one of them is influencing people. 

Not every leader has to be influential, in fact, I would risk saying that most don't. I am dealing with a leadership team profile where there are many influencing strengths or Impact Oriented Leadership style and guess what? There are conflict after conflict and not so much of business success. Everyone wants to be right, everyone wants to be seen and stand out, and everyone wants to influence the others (within the leadership team) to move their agenda forward. When these strengths fail because most have strong influential skills so they know when they are being influenced, they use their second dominant strength relationship and add it to their influencing. The result? The leaders work against each other making the COO's life a hell. 

Learn here about the four talent-based leadership styles:

The reason leaders must jell their team together is so the job can get completed. A COO or a CEO gets the job done through their senior leaders and if they are up against each other because they all want to be the best, right, the winner or in the best book of the CEO or the COO your business will fail. This idea that every leader must have influencing skills is bullshit and can cause the downfall of companies. 

It doesn't mean people with no such talent or strength don't influence others. We all do but very differently and that's what is important. Let's look at an example from the hotel industry, I don't want every Head of Department to have influencing talent and here is why:

Head of HK, Front Office, Engineering, Food & Beverage, IT, Security, and Hotel Manager: Must have executing and strategic thinking strengths. Their role is to plan & think for others and coordinate several departments so the operation can run smoothly. These are jobs for the planners and doers as every role in this department is task-oriented, those tasks must be executed and strategically aligned. These leaders influence others to get the job done by ensuring robust structures and procedures are in place and the jobs are easy to execute. They are the roadblock removers clearing out everything that comes in the way of the performance of their people. Sometimes, they also influence others by rolling up their sleeves and becoming part of their team to get the job done. It is probably the best way to influence the performance of doers. They must have a sense of responsibility and discipline required for the constant delivery of performance doesn't look like a rollercoaster. Executing requires grit, discipline and responsibility. 

Head of Sales, Marketing, Revenue, Finance: Must have strategic thinking strengths that make sense of data, trends, patterns, have consequential thinking, and can anticipate future events. They don't really have to influence others as their data and predictions will do that if they are good at their job. You don't want an overpowering - see me - kind of finance or revenue person as they just create conflict. I know a revenue director with people and influencing strength. You can guess how good she is at her job:-) Nothing to deliver but want to influence. Right. These guys must be silent partners whilst sales & marketing must be seen through their work i.e. revenue and social media reputation. Go and do those quietly. We don't need marketing lobbying for more budget removing resources from revenue-generating departments. Make a good video or whatever, that proves your worth for the business and you will never have to fight for money again. As for finance, the quality of your result and data will be your worth but you don't need to influence anybody. Just present your data and if you have a leaders with strategic thinking skills he/she can work out the way forward. 

Head of HR: Must have Strategic, People and Influencing strengths. They must think strategically, for everyone. We would like to expect them to be people-oriented since their role requires them to think for the people and to have the ability to influence managers and other leaders to execute people-related interventions in alignment with the business and the people's needs. It is a massive and very complex job that requires several strengths to work together. When HR fails they do because they are missing one, two or maybe even all of these strengths. Sometimes they are too people or business-oriented neither of is good. Sometimes their orientation is well balanced (business vs people needs) but they cannot formulate a strategy that demonstrates that. And if they can they lack the skill to influence others to execute. Sometimes all they have is people skills which at the senior leader level looks like this: I will please my boss whatever he/she wants. So they end up doing stupid things because they lack the strengths that are necessary for this role. Add to the mix: lack of expertise, skills and knowledge and you get social media posts about crapy HR. Congrats!

General Manager: Must have Influencing and strategic thinking strengths. They are the ones who must influence through communication, to have the desire to showcase their teams' achievements, advocate for them, and to show the way forward. They must have the ability to energise their leadership team around ideas so they can execute. They are the ones who must take accountability for every leader's performance, who should have a competitive spirit that pushes their team's performance bringing the best out of them. They must think strategically because those strengths will allow them to build their team. Most leaders fail due to their lack of ability to strategically build a team. They try through relationships but that hardly ever works. They just end up building 1:1 relationships with their head of departments while those heads work against each other often resulting in gossip sessions with the general managers themselves. Or, in an intimate relationship:-) Jesus, companies are like incestuous affairs..... 

Not every leader must have a high level of influencing skills, just like not every leader must have executing, or people skills. I know VPs with two people on their team so people skills are not that important. I am not saying leaders should not have a reasonable level of orientation towards their people's needs but we don't need to get crazy if we have HR for example to ensure people's needs are heard and taken care of. This would look like this: The leader with executing strengths pushes the team towards achievements which means long working hours. This is when HR steps with well-crafted policies and says "No" because she/he is people-oriented. This is the beautiful balance we should aspire for in organisations instead of telling people that they all must be the same. How is that working out for you all?

Great leaders understand that we cannot have well-rounded individuals only well-rounded teams which means that competencies and strengths are different in every individual. It is a team effort and should you skip that memo you will fail. Some must think, some must build processes, some must take care of the people, and some must represent everyone and show the way. Why do we expect everyone to do the same? Haven't we heard of the saying: Too many cooks.....?

Everyone wants to be important but that looks different in every role unfortunately we translated important to; I have good relationship with my boss, my boss listens to me, i am loud during meetings etc.. 

Executers's importance lies in getting the job done. They are short-term planners and they make things happen. They take action and work tirelessly to implement solutions.

Strategic thinkers' importance lies in thinking of options, finding solutions to problems and can think further than today. They are long-term planners. They keep the team focused on what could be and constantly absorb and analyze information, to help the team make better decisions. 

Relationship builders' importance lies in understanding peoples' needs and build strong relationships that hold a team together. They have the ability to make a team much greater than the sum of its parts.

Influencers' importance lies in taking charge, speaking up and making sure the team is heard. They are always selling the team’s ideas to different audiences. We don't need many of these. What we need is the head of departments to cascade information up to the leader about their employees' needs, achievements etc so the leader can take actions accordingly. 

PS: Have you noticed that one strengths every leader should have? Strategic Thinking WINK WINK:-) 

If you want to see where you strengths lie here is my free CliftonStrengths course. Enjoy!

Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!:

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