How to Influence

The Road Less Traveled
February 14, 2021
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February 14, 2021

How to Influence

How to Influence

I’ve heard lots of definitions of leadership over the years, but this has always been one of my favorites:

A leader has followers.

Want to know if you’re a leader? Turn around and see who’s behind you.

The best leaders discover ways to influence effectively. In today’s guide, considerations for how to influence.

Yes, It’s Science

Almost 20 years ago, I was fortunate to take a class in organizational psychology and got introduced to a classic book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini*. I had no idea books like it existed and it first made me aware of the science involved in influence.

The book is still a great read today and well worth your time, but you can get the essence of the science quickly. Here’s Cialdini with a twelve-minute video on the six universal principles of persuasion.

Don’t have twelve minutes? This recent article from Garr Reynolds will give you the super-abridged version.

Challenge With Love

I came across an article this week about a doctor who is challenging traditional breast cancer treatment.

Her philosophy of treatment puts her at odds with others in the medical community — and sometimes with patients, who often expect more aggressive recommendations.

But she doesn’t challenge the status quo with anger. This is line that caught my attention:

For nearly two decades, Dr. Esserman has sung to her patients as they go under anesthesia. With enough notice, she takes requests.

The research is starting to back her up. If you want to influence with love, take some inspiration from the breast cancer surgeon who keeps challenging the status quo.


Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer. While co-founder Steve Jobs became much better known, most insiders credit Woz (as he’s affectionately known) with the engineering genius behind Apple’s start.

In a world where teams make things happen in many organizations, it’s easy to forget that sometimes a single individual can influence change just as well. In fact, sometimes better.

Woz has written:

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee.

Susan Cain’s recent article profiles Woz and reminds us of the influence we can have by zeroing in on our strengths and preferences.

To influence better, be true to who you are.


Every night when Bonni or I put Hannah to bed (she’s 1), she always points towards the small book shelf in her room and enthusiastically calls out one word:


While it warms my heart that we can never read enough to satisfy her, I’m also reminded of an unending struggle:

So little books. So little time.

That doesn’t mean that it’s still not fun to try. For the Hannah in all of us, here’s a great list of 25 underrated books on persuasion, influence, and understanding human behavior.

Monday’s Show

Be interested before being interesting.

211: How to Be Present and Productive

I value leadership and human relations models that are simple and powerful. That’s why when I heard of Jeremie Kubicek’s work, I invited him to be on the show.

Jeremie joined me on this week’s episode to examine how to be present and productive using the model in his new book, 5 Gears*. I found the model practical and actionable. The 5 gears and the full audio are posted on the Coaching for Leaders website.

Is this week’s leadership guide helpful? View comments from others and add your thoughts here.

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