40% of our time spent influencing others – isn’t that #Leadership?

We spend a lot of our time selling. Selling things and ideas. In fact, according to Daniel Pink, in his new book, “To sell is human”, we spend roughly 40% of our work time persuading, influencing or convincing others. This is probably no surprise to anyone working in a professional, information driven job.

I’ve been grumbling a lot about the excessive (or perhaps obsessive) discussion of leadership in the modern press. How we have bad leadership, no leadership, how to “do” leadership…. Suddenly, the light bulb went on. The reason that we are so obsessed with leadership is that 40% of the average person’s job is to influence others. Since the definition of leadership is to persuade or influence others to work together to attain a goal, 40% of  the average worker’s job is some form of leadership.

Could this be the reason that white collar productivity refuses to budge upwards?  Have we overdone it? Are we spending too much time and effort engaging others and convincing them to buy into organizational objectives?  Or do we just need to learn how to “play well together” ?  Back in the day, when I was a marketing director at a large multinational company, I once tracked how much time I was spending in meetings persuading, okay, pleading with others to see the vision and implement it. It was over 60% of my time. These activities aren’t scaleable, and you can’t speed them up. They take the time that they take. Short cut the engagement and persuasion, and you get half-hearted engagement, passive resistance and poor execution.

But this does raise the question of leadership. If leadership is all about persuading and engaging others, why do we spend so much time thinking and talking about the “Leader”, instead of learning more about what influences followers?

Source: Pink, D. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others.  New York: Riverhead Books.


1 reply »

  1. Like your points here. As much as it probably isn’t a good idea to disagree with Daniel Pink I think leadership is 100% about influencing others and everything somebody does influences other people – the only problem is that it’s not easy to determine whether the outcome is a direct result of what we intended.

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