Influencing People


Wouldn’t it be wonderful when people would actually do what you tell them to do? Well, of course not. It may be a leadership sigh or wishful dream but ultimately it would turn against an effective change. Frankly, it’s impossible to yell your way to success. So, what would it take going together into a desired direction? Is it perhaps by the People’s Will, establishing a kind of populist social contract (what Rousseau -1- had in mind in his version of democracy)? That would essentially mean a ruling of the loudest voices. Or is it better to call in Leviathan in an effort to silence voices and follow the leader for the benefit and safeguard of all (2). The ancient citizens of Athens knew it could be beneficial to have a dictator from time to time to clear the skies. To run a country or a school for that matter requires a careful way of influencing people for the benefit of all – it is a leadership obligation and a responsibility to which they are accountable. Some leaders are good at influencing people and others are simply appalling. Now, book shelves cannot hold the weight of books on leadership and how to get things done, but still it is energizing to keep the key message flourishing: it is all about how to influence people.

A study on leadership styles in different school settings showed some nice examples of what can happen with certain ways of influencing on actual change in teachers. It turned out that informing the thinking and sharing the practice of others were essential. That is to say: through conversation among members explicate and discuss to convince the ‘other’ of the worth of a proposed change. This led the authors to make a distinction between ‘influencing’ and ‘change’ in which influencing is open and transcending, and precedes change of actions. A stress on change without influencing would be really counterproductive.

But often leaders forget this simple message in a hurry to ‘accomplish things’; alas, a ‘first things first’ mentality will get you nowhere (3). Reinterpreting the outcomes of the study one could point to the real meaning of ‘leading’ which is counter to a rushing towards some end but instead far more a ‘shepherding’ of participants to get somewhere together. Put differently, it not so much ‘messaging’ what makes a good leader but ‘assessing opportunities’ to make headway.


The teacher leadership process: Attempting change within embedded systems Kristy S. Cooper, Randi N. Stanulis, Susan K. Brondyk,  Erica R. Hamilton, Michael Macaluso, Jessica A. Meier Journal of  Educational Change (2016) 17:85–113

DOI 10.1007/s10833-015-9262-4






The (Wo)Man. The Vision


When you have no idea where to go, you end up places where you do not want to be. Any car driver knows that. It may result in an interesting drive but normally, not on vacation or anything, it would be a foolish thing to do. Ideas, visions, convictions help us to identify and label what we want; thus helping us to formulate and attain objectives to go for (1). So, having a vision makes a (wo)man and gets you where you want. This may be true from a life-orientation perspective but pragmatically it is not easy to forward a vision or idea you have, especially when you have to share them with, or convince other people. Imagine a meeting with colleagues or a get-together with friends, and try to sway them behind a position you take. Then you experience the poverty of sharing ideas in an interactive arena. The things you cherish can be altered by others, captured by another position, or refurbished completely without any reluctance. Ideas or visions beyond the personal realm are shaky elements. Nevertheless, we need them to set up a (shared) route or to point out a (common) direction. And it takes a (wo)man to hold and stick to a vision.
Will it work pragmatically? For instance, take a school principal with strong convictions and a clear vision on the direction and position of his/her school. A positive answer comes from an Israeli study. A small set of high achieving schools were monitored. Talks with school leaders on their orientation on managing the school and with teachers about their satisfaction to work at the school showed that a strong vision by principals was favored highly. Of course, there were other factors that came into play, like: enhancing students’ choice, developing a student-oriented class schedule, organizing an exam system, and mapping each student, but exertion of a strong vison by the principal was paramount.

This is not to question the frequently found conclusion from leadership studies that clarity of vision promotes activity, i.e., get things done (2). It is more about how we attribute having a vision, i.e., how the gap between dedication and decision is resolved. Is it by having a strong person in charge, The Man, or is it essentially The Process of establishing a common language? Any reform at the school is most likely to succeed when all involved adhere to a shared conceptual framework. Not ‘having’ a vision by someone may be the crux but far more mounting a vision that will be recognized. In that respect principals have a great invitational responsibility.

School Success as a Process of Structuration, by Dorit Tubin
Educational Administration Quarterly 2015, Vol. 51(4) 640–674, 2015
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DOI: 10.1177/0013161X15569346