The phenomena of influence is is too often thought of through the single linear lens of cause/effect. We judge our level of influence on the visibility of outcomes we can trace back to our influential act. Where at least two children are interacting, this concept can be seen in its purest from:
ME: “Why are you screaming up there?”
DAUGHTER: “Because he pushed me down!”
ME: “Why did you push your sister down?”
SON: “Because she was in my room and I didn’t want her in there.”
ME: “Why were you in your brother’s room?”
DAUGHTER: “Because he took apart my Lego animal shelter.”
ME: “Why did you take apart what she built?”
SON: “Because she took my pieces and wouldn’t give them back.”
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Ad infinitum.
Real influence, however, is much more ubiquitous and far less concrete. The scope and reach of our influence cannot be measured simply by the immediate effects whose dots we can connect with ease. Because of the interconnectedness of our world — socially, economically, technologically — the choices we make (or don’t make) may not show an immediate, measurable impact on those around us. But, like every move in a game of Jenga before the one that topples the tower, each choice changes the board (and its array of possible choices) for all the other players.
For leaders, positions of leadership only amplify the unseen waves our choices make in the people, organizations, and environments around us. The smile you offer … the cynicism you convey … the technically true but effectively dishonest “positioning” language you deploy … the sense of priority with which you make decisions … the seemingly inconsequential sacrifice made on behalf of your team … all of these acts reshape the tower of choices available to the people whom you lead, and do so with much greater weight and effect.
Be mindful of your influence. Make your next move accordingly.