November 21, 2023

❏ Notes to Self 008 - Domination is not Influence

The Harvard Business Review popped into my inbox today with a reading list about Developing Influence. I work with clients at every level of leadership and one of the most common areas of development is around deepening the capacity to influence, so I’m always curious what traditional business and leadership institutes have to say.

The Center for Creative Leadership defines influence as, “the ability to affect the behavior of others in a particular direction, leveraging key tactics that involve, connect, and inspire them.” Influence is tricky, but I find this definition fairly reasonable as far as something to get your hands around. But according to the first HBR article in the series, “Understand the Four Components of Influence,” influence is not about involving, connection, or inspiring but domination. And this isn’t me reading between the lines — this brief article uses the word ‘dominate’ four times, just to make itself clear.

This is a relatively short Note to Self, but I just wanted to note how vehemently I disagree with this approach to leadership, and how domination and influence have nothing to do with each other. Domination is power and control. Influence is a mutual give and take, relationally sensing into what each element of a system is seeing and needing, and finding a way forward from there. It requires understanding that systems contain multipolar energy, a natural feature of dynamic wholeness. In order to successfully influence, a leader must also be influenceable. Domination precludes this possibility and shuts down effective avenues of influence. Domination is a sickness that leads to brittleness, a single node controlling all others in a myopic power play. It’s no wonder so many workplaces are in crises. No one wants to be dominated and controlled (certainly not Gen Z, nor any other generation for that matter). And yet, we get articles like this one.