Project Management

Leaders exert influence for success

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By Peter Tarhanidis

Whenever I’m in a leadership role I try to be sensitive to the level of influence I gain, retain and lose. Influence is a precious commodity for a leader. And it can be disastrous if you lose your team or if tensions arise that reduce one’s effectiveness to achieve a goal.

I recall one of my client assignments where the goal was to ensure a successful integration of a complex merger and acquisition. The team had slipped on dates, missed key meetings and there were no formalized milestones.

I set up casual meetings to discuss with each member what would motivate them to participate. One clear signal was that management had changed the acquisition date several times. This disengaged the team due to false starts that took time away from other priorities.

During the sponsor review, I reported there was a communication breakdown and that no one shared this effort as a priority. At that point, the sponsor could have used his position of power to pressure everyone to do their part. However, the sponsor did not want to come off as autocratic.

Instead, he asked if I would be willing to find an alternative approach to get the team’s buy in.

I realized my influence was low, but I wanted to help improve the outcome for this team. So I talked again with each team member to negotiate a common approach with the goal to be integration-ready without having an exact date.

Ultimately, our goal was to have all milestones met while a smaller core team could later remain to implement the integration when management announced the final date.

A leader uses influence as part of the process to communicate ideas, gain approval and motivate colleagues to implement the concepts through changes to the organization. 

In many cases, success increases as a leaders exert influence over others to find a shared purpose.

Tell me, which creates your best outcomes as a leader: influencing others through power or through negotiation?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: May 31, 2017 10:10 AM | Permalink

Comments (15)

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As Misner says, people tend to respond more favorably to others who help them. If a leader is trying to influence through power the others could react negative. But if a leader will influence through negotiation, keeping always in mind the need of the other part, adapting the message to each individual and having an ethical aproach, the results will be great.

Hi Daniela,

Great quote. Thank you!


I think as a project manager we often don't have a lot of power to wield. Generally I need to use negotiation in order to motivate and get the results I need. So I think negotiation is a more universal tool although power can get things done quickly if you have it!

Great post.

Jennifer great comments and perhaps Project Managers should invest in developing negotiations skills through practice or a course.

IMO, I think this depends on the character of the persons who you are working with, but we should use try negotiation before we think of influencing by power

Duong, Thank you for your comment. You bring up an interesting point which is there are a number of techniques to deal with a team versus an individual. We must be flexible with meeting the needs of individuals and ensure we can help align to a common shared goal.



Influence is a powerful tool and you have to understand how you exert your powers effectively. It is a part of the toolkit of a leader. I believe that you assessed the situation appropriately and ultimately selected the best approach. Good Article.

Influence is a precious commodity and is closely linked to perception. Both are invisible in the project but often make the difference between success and failure. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront of our thoughts and giving us a reminder of its importance.

Liana thank you for your comments. I agree. What about influence = perception and leads to inspiration?



Funny how even if you have low power, you can still get things done. :)

Like Jennifer, my ability to influence using power is limited. Even if I could, I would never get the same level of influence as when I use negotiations instead.

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