The Role of Influence in Leadership
Influence occurs when a person's emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. It is an important component of a leader's ability to use power and maintain respect in an organization. Influence is apparent in the form of peer pressure, socialization, conformity, obedience, and persuasion. The ability to influence is an important asset for leaders, and it is also an important skill for those in sales, marketing, politics, and law.
In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance involves people behaving the way others expect them to whether they agree with doing so or not. Obeying the instructions of a crossing guard or an authority figure is an example of compliance. Identification is when people behave according to what they think is valued by those who are well-liked and respected, such as a celebrity. Status is a key aspect of identification: when people purchase something highly coveted by many others, such as the latest smartphone, they are under the influence of identification. Internalization is when people accept, either explicitly or privately, a belief or set of values that leads to behavior that reflects those values. An example is following the tenets of one's religion.
Politics as an Example of Social Influence
Leaders, such as politicians, often use identification to gain support for their beliefs on certain issues.
How Leaders Use Influence
In an organization, a leader can use these three types of influence to motivate people and achieve objectives. For example, compliance is a means of maintaining order in the workplace, such as when employees are expected to follow the rules set by their supervisors. Similarly, identification happens when people seek to imitate and follow the actions of people they look up to and respect, for example a more experienced co-worker or trusted supervisor. Internalization results when employees embrace the vision and values of a leader and develop a commitment to fulfilling them.
Leaders use these different types of influence to motivate the behaviors and actions needed to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. Individuals differ in how susceptible they are to each type of influence. Some workers may care a great deal about what others think of them and thus be more amenable to identifying the cues for how to behave. Other individuals may want to believe strongly in what they do and so seek to internalize a set of values to guide them. In organizations and in most parts of life, sources of influence are all around us. As a result, our behavior can be shaped by how others communicate with us and how we see them.