Breaking Down Barriers to Greater Influence

By: Kristin Clarke

How leaders can expand their scope of influence if they don't get in their own way.

Organizational leaders can greatly expand the scope of their influence if they don't get in their own way, says Frances Hesselbein, founding president of the Leader to Leader Institute (formerly called the Peter F. Drucker Foundation).

"I think the influence we have in building this base comes from our own values and how we live those values. Our people watch us very carefully," explains the social-sector icon, who describes her rise to the highest ranks of nonprofit management in her just-released autobiography, My Life in Leadership: A Journey and Lessons Learned Along the Way.

She identifies three self-made barriers to building leadership influence:

A fuzzy mission. "Many times, lack of clarity and focus about mission is a barrier when all of us on a team do not appreciate why we do what we do," Hesselbein says.

Undervaluation "of the power of rapidly changing demographics." She explains that when leaders understand and appreciate the force of shifting demographics and then create a diverse and inclusive team accordingly, everybody can use those unique perspectives to boost the drive and mission focus of the organization.

Lack of a clear set of values that ground all organizational actions. "When a leader lives his or her values, and the [values] are not just on a nice plaque on the office wall, it's amazing the power and influence that flows to the leader," Hesselbein says. "But if we speak one way and behave and live another, it dilutes."

Leaders who overcome these potential barriers to boosting their own influence as well as that of their organizations will find themselves "part of the future," she continues. "To build [leadership] power, be mission focused, values based, and demographics driven, because if you're not doing all three, you're part of the past."

Kristin Clarke is a business journalist and writer and researcher for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.