New Study Reveals Most Leaders Lack Influence

PROVO, UT – November 14, 2007 – Influence challenges exist at every level of an organization. According to a new study by the authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything (McGraw- Hill, 2007), one of the main culprits of these challenges is that leaders have little if any influence over the way employees behave. In fact, the data reveals that only one in twenty leaders is a true “influencer” – someone capable of influencing bad behaviors in a way that lasts.

In a survey of more than 1000 leaders, managers, and employees, 90 percent of respondents identified dysfunctional behaviors that have become accepted in their organizations. The most common and costly behaviors named were turfism, gossiping, and shifting blame – actions that serve personal interests at the expense of the common good and end up sapping morale, hurting customers, and lowering productivity.

For example:

  • In one Fortune 500 company, the Training Department encouraged a vendor to sue another division of their own company in order to keep them from cutting separate deals with the vendor and working around the Training Department.
  • One survey respondent described how a manager at her company repeatedly asked for extensions on deadlines. The bad behavior spread like a virus and within months, no one expected anyone to hit a deadline. She says this has continued for the past two years with no improvement.

It’s no surprise that bad behaviors happen. The astounding trend is that leaders either do nothing to influence change, or attempt solutions that fail miserably.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • More than two-thirds of leaders feel powerless to affect any of these performance-sapping behaviors.
  • 64 percent of the time, little if nothing is done to discourage bad behaviors.
  • Bad behaviors have become so tolerated that 95 percent of the behaviors identified typically persist for a year or longer.
  • Half of survey respondents said the bad behaviors impact important business results; the top three impacted results are employee satisfaction, productivity, and quality.

Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the brand new New York Times bestseller, Influencer, says the reason most leaders don’t have influence over employee bad behavior is that most don’t even know how to think about influence—much less create a strategy that works.

“When it comes to influence, leaders are somewhat like the person whose car breaks down. They stand on the side of the road with their hood up staring at their engine but don’t know what to do,” says Grenny. “Most leaders have three influence strategies in their repertoire—e-mail, PowerPoint, and threats. And because these strategies don’t usually work, they simply give up and cope. They endure gossip, fight turfism with more turfism, and deal with blame by becoming the first to point the finger.”

The study results indicate that leaders don’t necessarily lack the courage to change things; often they just lack the skill.

“The good news is that one in twenty leaders can influence change,” says Grenny. “They do so by using four or five sources of influence in combination, not just one. The study showed these people are able to affect behavior change quickly and permanently. And these are skills everyone can learn.”

Grenny’s book, Influencer, draws on the skills of hundreds of successful influencers who have solved seemingly insurmountable influence challenges. And they all did it using the same basic set of influence skills.

“If leaders can learn to diagnose the sources of influence that are responsible for the current behavior of their employees, they can create an influence plan for replacing the bad behaviors with good ones and ultimately, make change inevitable,” says Grenny.


About VitalSmarts

An innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, VitalSmarts is home to award- winning training products that deliver powerful tools that enrich relationships and improve end results. The company also has three New York Times bestselling books, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer. VitalSmarts has been listed twice on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies and has taught more than 2 million people worldwide.

Note to editor: Joseph Grenny, coauthor of, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, can give your readers/viewers tips on how to create an influence strategy for changing bad behaviors like turfism, gossiping, and shifting blame.

New Study Reveals Most Leaders Lack Influence

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