The Power of Influence


In the 1990’s movie “Goodfellas,” we witness how individuals can rapidly move up the power chain through influence. In fact, it is an all-time classic gangster movie. Goodfellas grossed over $46.8 million domestically and received many national awards and reviews.

Here’s the synopsis. Henry Hill (Ray Liotte) grew up with a vision of a Mafia lifestyle. It was a dream that would garnish him wealth, power, and influence. Henry aggressively worked toward this ambition. He would become successful. Once a small time gangster, Henry became a major player; he participated in a major robbery with Jimmy Conway (Robert De Nero) and Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci). His two partners managed to kill off everyone else involved in the robbery and slowly advance the hierarchy of the Mob. Henry had finally gotten the power and influence he craved along with other intended consequences.

Today, many managers tend to operate like gorillas in power.  People in organizations tend to follow the person in power, not necessarily the best thinkers. This is called the Alpha Principle.  Harry Beckwith, marketing author, states that most organizations operate like apes. He notes, “The alphas dictate what the group does and thinks. 

But are alphas better at decision making?  Not necessarily. Alphas are just better at getting and keeping power.”  Poorly skilled managers cause a lot of unnecessary stress to families because they don’t understand how to treat people.  Employees then bring it home to their families, thereby creating more problems. In this discussion, we will examine how individual workers can gain more influence in their organizations.

Levels of Power

There are a variety of ways influences can obtain influence in contemporary organizations.  In fact, leadership is a combination of power and influence.  Leader can be defined as the ability to influence, guide, and direct others.  Leaders get people to do things they wouldn’t normally do alone.  Power is a key component of leadership.  Power is the ability of a person in an organization to influence others to accomplish a desired outcome.  In most organizations power often evolves into the domination of others. 

Given this dynamic of organizations, managers need to understand their organizations. James Gibson, John Ivancevich, James Donelly, Jr., and Robert Konopaske, author of Organizations, argue that individuals need to understand how organizations operate.  In many organizations, there is a power struggle.  Power relates to the ability to get others to do what one wants them to do.  Given this framework, five interpersonal bases of power can be summarized as legitimate power, reward, coercive, referent, and expert power. 

In legitimate power, a person’s ability to influence others is given by being in a position of power. In fact, the person’s influence is authorized by his title in the organization.  There is little an individual can do if they do not possess this legitimate in changing the way things are done.  Coercive and reward power are based on the same premise; it is a person’s ability to reward or punish the behavior of others.

In fact, these sources of power are often used to support the use of legitimate power. Therefore, if you are not in a position to apply coercive or reward power, gaining influence in a contemporary organization may prove to be too difficult.  The above items are considered organizational power.

When individuals do not have title in an organization, they should be strategic in gaining more influence in the organization. The two major factors are referent and expert power. Referent power is based on a person’s charisma due to the personality or style of behavior.

Gibson, Ivancevich, Donelly, and Konopaske maintain that the strength of a person’s charisma is an indication of a person’s referent power. This power can be effective in leading others to make better decisions. People will at least listen to you because they instinctively trust you as a leader. Unfortunately, not everyone has that type of a magnetic personality.

Expert power is the power to influence others based on special expertise.  Even when an individual may have low rank in an organization, expert power makes the individual invaluable. Expert power can relate to administrative, technical, or other personal attributes. It goes to the Law of Scarcity.  Therefore, the most difficult a person is to replace, the greater the individual’s power in the organization. Individuals can gain this power in several ways.

First, a person can learn about the organization’s needs or deficiencies and seek to fill this knowledge gap.  For example, a small consulting firm may lacks the skills to promote itself. An employee with this ability could provide this additional service to this organization. Thus, the employee gains power. Second, employees can take additional training and obtain special certifications which can assist the organization in achieving its mission.

Third, individuals can become an authority in an area and become a hot commodity.  In fact, a person who can train, teach, lecture, and write on a particular subject can gain influence in his or her organization as well as outside of the organization. Finally, gaining expert power may not propel you into the next manager level. However, it will give you great influence in your organization as well as the community. Therefore, your influence becomes mobile and makes you more competitive in the marketplace.



As businesses fight to stay alive in the changing marketplace, there is an increasing need for effective leaders. Gaining influence becomes a premium for emerging leaders. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends Influence and Influence People, argued the importance of influencing others:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

The article demonstrated that there are a variety of power types in most organizations.  Unfortunately, some manager’s fear their losing power and are unwilling to share decision-making. Yet, entrusting good employees to make good decisions is a catalysis for creating high performance teams. Learning how to influence others is critical. Individuals do not have to be the boss in order to possess power in the organization.

However, not everyone has leadership persona. Referent power is derived from personal characteristics that employees admire.  But—empowerment increases employee morale.  Some people don’t understand the merits of satisfied employees on the bottom line.  Sadly, many people cannot distinguish a manager from a leader. Yet, leadership is all about gaining influence, regardless of the organizational level.

How can individuals gain influence with social media and other new technologies? Are there any ways to garnish more influence?

 © 2011 by Daryl D. Green

29 thoughts on “The Power of Influence

  1. In today’s world of technology and research of personal growth we are always looking for assistance. The thing to remember in being a leader is that if you can get a lazy person to work for you then you are successful.
    According to Allocca (2011 ), Connected Culture is presented in an easy-to-read, non-technical format, and details how marketing directors can connect with customers and influencers by leveraging the digital marketing tools that today’s generation uses—and trusts—every day: Websites, Email, Text Messages, Search Engines, Social Networking, Social Blogging, Social Micro blogging, Social Videos, Social Photos, Social News & Social Bookmarking.
    I agree with Mr. Allocca do to the “Generation Y” is the drive of our work force and setting the tone for Generation Z. Managers are no longer just dealing with the 1925-1945 – Silent Generation, 1946-1964 – Baby Boomers and 1965-1979 – Generation X’s.

    1. Allocca, J. (2011). Internet marketing authority reveals how organizations gain influence with the digital generation. Connected Culture, the powerful new digital marketing book by Jerry Allocca, aims to change the way organizations connect with their customers online., Retrieved from

    2. Rosenberg, M. (n.d.). Names of generations. Retrieved from

  2. Robert, I must admit that we are shifting in a whole different and new sector when it comes to promoting individuals. As we become more tied down by the use of technology in our daily lives we must begin to find creative and new ways to promote and motivate individuals in today’s era. Our older generations tend to point their fingers and accuse the rest of us of laziness however; we are set in a different time where things are done differentltly. It is because of the Millennials, that the online market has become very successful. According to Smith who conducts research on millennial marketing, “With the increasing usage of digital media by consumers, more companies are using digital marketing to reach their target markets.” “Millennials have been identified as a driving force behind online shopping.” This goes on to prove that today’s generation understands the online needs more than any other generation thus far, so it is easily noted that motivating them would be much easier than others care to give credit.

    Smith, Katherine. (2010). “Digital Marketing Strategies that Millennials Find Appealing,Motivating, or Just Annoying.” Retrieved from:

  3. Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man’s character –give him power” (Wilson, 2010). This thought is truer today than when he said it. While American history is full of great leaders like Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, there have also been many leaders who abuse the power given to them. Leadership is learned and power is something that is earned. As history has shown us time and time again, for every good leader there are two or three bad leaders.
    In today’s time individuals can use social media to spread their message much faster than in the past. This could be devastating if the leader is Hitler or Bonaparte. The flip side to that is with increase social media it should be easier to discover bad leaders in hopes of stopping their missions before millions suffer at their hands. A prime example would be Libya. Gadhafi has ruled for years with no problems and now thanks to the news and internet his power is threatened by citizens who don’t agree with him.

    Works Cited
    Wilson, R. (2010). The Un-comfort Zone with Robert Wilson. Retrieved 3 1, 2011, from Industrial Supply Magazine:—Leadership-vs-power.php

    • In his book, Abraham Zaleznik states, “The abuse of power in organizations is to use power so that substance leads process. This is done by keeping content of work at the center of communication. As a result, misguided and counterproductive leadership and management practices have settled into many organizations” (2006). Contradictory to Alexis’ point, leadership cannot be learned according to Zaleznik. He believes that leadership is based on an individual’s “essential personal qualities, such as, competence, character and compassion” (2006). You either possess these qualities or you don’t. Leaders in places such as Libya are falling from power because they lack these characteristics according to their constituents. “Character embraces the code of ethics that prevents corruption and compassion is the commitment to use power to benefit others.” In agreement with Alexis, new technologies have enabled the people to more easily communicate their grievances and express their feelings of mistreatment and corruption. Coming around to my point, power is lost when individuals see and experience the results of a leader in power whom lacks these essential qualities.


      Zalezink, Abraham. March 2006. Learning Leadership: The Abuse of Power in Organizations. Beard Books.

      • I agree with Jalene’s point that leadership cannot be learned. While I think all individuals have characteristics to make them leaders, not all have the ability or disposition to be great leaders. This is why the Middle East is seeing major changes in what the people want from their leaders. With today’s access to social meeting and more people becoming educated the past practice of fear and intimidation is losing ground now more than ever.

      • I agree with points from both Alexis and Jalene. It is true that the actual character of being a leader is not learned. There are people because of their character and charisma they are “natural born leaders.” They are able to command an audience and have the influence in a positive manner to improve productivity. I do also believe there are skills that a leader can learn that will help he or she to become a more effective leader outside of just character.

    • Is leadership learned or is it a part of who we are as individuals? True, characteristics of leaders can be mimicked, but I believe some of the most successful leaders are born with a natural ability. Also, power is something that is often taken, not earned. For example, Muammar Gaddafi did not earn his 42 year long seat of power; he took it in a bloodless coup in 1969. On the other hand, one may argue that he earned it through skillful leadership.

      Due to the rapid rate information being exchanged, the use of social media and other technologies allows for the emergence of more leaders. For example, Laleh Patel states that it took radio and television 38 and 13 years to reach 50 million people while it took only 9 months for Facebook to reach 50 million people (Patel, 2010). Whether good or bad, views and opinions can be heard, read and spread throughout the world at a blistering pace. Emerging leaders can influence and present agendas to a wider audience that ever before. It’s scary, but exciting at the same time.

      Patel, L. (2010). THE RISE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. T+D, 64(7), 60-61. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

  4. Jalene—absolutely agree with your reference comment “leadership is based on an individual’s essential personal qualities, such as, competence, character and compassion”. I have met only a hand full of memorable leaders in my 35 years of employment, memorable due to their referent power earned through charismatic personalities and true commitment to goal achievement. Effective and trusted leadership gains staff support; therefore earns power. Joe Love goes so far to state that “your charisma is really a measure of the power of your personality”. (2007). The charismatic aura of a leader affects the way people react and respond to you, either positively or negatively. Leaders have tremendous communications channels in our technically advanced and “textual” society. Tones and attitudes are easily conveyed in text form and video communications. Telepresence technologies bring peers and work groups that are 16,000 miles apart to a “face-to-face” communications portal. Influential leaders must take responsibilities for attaining business goals without making excuses and blaming others. When staff recognize their leaders “have their back”, the leader has earned power.

      • Charismatic individuals are perceived, key word perceived, in a different light. It’s how the indivual handles themselves in a situation, it’s the attitude they present to individuals and groups, it’s an attaction or magnitism that radiates aournd them that draws support and allows them to LEAD. I have personally met only one individual that radiated such a magnetic personality. When this individual enters a room, the “aura” of the group changes. The entire dynamics of the group changes within minutes. Quite amazing!

  5. The emergence of multiple types of social media and the increasing popularity of these channels of distribution has tremendously changed the rule book for organizations and individuals in gaining of influence. Organizations are now seeking those individuals with a “high-level of influence based on their influence in social-media circles such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-In” (Vascellaro, 2011). This does not mean they are what would be deemed a typically highly influential person, such as a CEO or political icon, but are ordinary individuals who have a high influence in the world of social media. These individuals use their influence to share their experiences through postings of restaurants, hotels, and business that they “love” or “hate” and some business are willing to pay them for positive marketing exposure. An individual can raise their “rating” by increasing their number of followers and friend count (Vascellaro, 2011). The more followers and friends a person has the more organizations are interested in your individual activity. These new modes of influence from social media provide many organizations with more exposure than a traditional marketing campaign.

    Vascellaro, Jessica E. (2011).Wannable Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers. Retrieved from

  6. I believe the quote; “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you,” is more relevant now more than ever in business with the emerging influence of social media. Months ago I was frustrated with my internet service provided, and I vented my anger on my twitter account. A few days later I received a message from their customer support department asking me what they could do to change my opinion. I would have never guessed that these big businesses thought enough of my quick flame to verify a response and even knock a few dollars off my bill. Other tuned-in businesses include Hard Knox Pizza which gives you a free drink every time you post them to your Foursquare via mobile phone.
    CEO Coach, Mike Myatt, emphasizes that influence is built on meaningful relationships and trust, not just contacts from a database. He goes on to explain the reason many extremely intelligent individuals do not succeed comes from an inability to leverage relationships and gain influence.

    Myatt, M. (2011, March 10). Developing influence.

  7. A lot of people think that if it’s on the internet then it must be true and reliable. Joining social networks these days is not optional it’s almost mandatory. When u meet someone in person a lot of time when they get home they “google” you, which mean they look at your representation in the internet, social media, LinkedIn, facebook etc. Having these site and not being active doesn’t help, you have to be active not only daily but almost few times a day, people well notice that and start following you. Talking about a specific subject in these media over time gives you the expert power you are looking for. Maybe in your specific job you’re not the manager or anyone with power but using social media everyone is equal, and you get out of it as much as you put in. Using these tools you find a voice and gain more influence.

    Kessler, Sarah (November 2, 2010) “HOW TO: Gain Twitter Influence” Retrieved from:

  8. Social media is providing a useful platform for gaining influence. One example is Mark Schaefer who is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions and adjunct marketing professor at Rutgers University. Last year Mr. Schaefer and a few of his Twitter friends from around the country met in Memphis to meet face to face to share ideas and fellowship. Mr. Schaefer is currently in the process of marketing and all-day social media and marketing conference called “Social Slam” under the sponsorship of the Social Media Club of Knoxville. The event will be held at the Knoxville convention center on April 13. As discussed by News Sentinel reporter Carly Harrington the conference has already sold more than 300 tickets from participants from more than a dozen states.

    The conference will host panel discussion on social media’s reinvention of public relations, business case for social media and marketing. I think Mr. Schafer has proven that the use of social media can turn online conversation (that many consider to be impersonal) on relative topics into a forum for professional growth and greater influence among ones professional network.

    Harrington, C. (2011 March 25). Social slam for making connections. News Sentinel pp. B1

  9. I think that our last presidential election was a great example of gaining influence through social media. President Obama was on the forefront of social medial and used millions of young and vibrant volunteers to reach out to their friends and family. This was a grassroots effort that turned into the largest donation avenue that has ever been seen in American politics. According to an article in the New York Times, stated that a network of supporters who used a distributed model of phone banking to organize and get out the vote, helped raise a record-breaking $600 million, and created all manner of media clips that were viewed millions of times. It was an online movement that begot offline behavior, including producing youth voter turnout that may have supplied the margin of victory. With ever evolving technological advancements such as cloud data storage and redistribution and the IPAD, many people will continue to gain advantages over those who tend to distrust change.
    Carr, D. ( 2008). How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power. The New York Times. Retrieved from

  10. I agree with Jamie point that leader’s are born to lead. When I think of great leaders one that always comes to mind is William Churchill. Churchill embodied the key attributes of being a great leader. When the countries around him were falling to the enemy Churchill stood his ground. He had the knack not only to stay motivated but to motivate the world around him. Greatly know for his renowned radio broadcast, Churchill was able to keep Great Britain together when lesser men would have allowed it to crumble. Churchill once stated, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Churchill showed that he would not allow the world to dictate his course in history but that he would be the writer of his own destiny.
    Winston S. Churchill — Articles, Video, Pictures and Facts. (n.d.) — History Made Every Day — American & World History. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from

  11. The millennial generation has been brought up with laptops, tablets, iPods, smart phones, portable DVD players, and more so it’s easy to see the best way to contact this generation: electronically. Our generation is the one who will be making the decisions for the future of this country so it’s extremely important that the previous generations explore social media outlets. There are lots of positives to using media outlets, especially in terms of gain power and influence. There are several types of social media from Facebook to YouTube to various blogging sites. The advantage of audio and video medium is personal interaction with target market, fast delivery of information, cost effectiveness, and brand recognition (Owolabi, 2011). Using this type of reaches a deeper level of effectiveness because viewers are able to gain visual “relatability” and absorb non-verbal cues.

    Owolabi, O. J. (2011, April 6). 5 Revolutionary ways to influence through social media. The academy of business strategy-brand positioning. Retrieved on April 21, 2011 from

  12. Social media is merely a means of marketing oneself. Just as organizations have websites that summarize the importance of the organization and highlight achievements, often including examples of how the organization is a good corporate citizen, social media provides the same means for individuals. It gives a snapshot of a person’s character, outside of the workplace.

    For some, it can be difficult to envision a coworker outside of the workplace, especially if the coworker is perceived as “down-to-business” or super serious. Facebook, for example, showcases photographs and a quick bio of a person. Just as Dale Carnegie advocates in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” the importance of being perceived as likeable, social media can make a person more likeable by illustrating ways that a person, even if considered rigid, has a personable and fun side too. Ultimately, if one possesses characteristics of a likeable person, then he/she has more of a chance in gaining trust and influencing others.

  13. Yes, people nowadays do not watch news on TV anymore; they instead check websites to be updated with the current news. Actually CNN is now delivering news via Facebook . Using Social Media, people around the globe can interact long distantly and virtually. Also allowing people to express their thoughts and ideas through writing blogs and notes.
    “67% of users access the Internet for social networking. That’s the power of social media participation! It helps you build new relationships and networks, strengthen existing relationships, meet likeminded people with the similar interests, create brand awareness, inform customers about new products and services, get feedback from clients to improve your business and customer relations”
    “social media is cost effective, it takes less time to reach out to customers and has endless possibilities. You can grab attention by writing your own blog or leaving a comment on someone else’s blog.”

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