Can Leaders Increase Their Power and Influence While Honoring The Dignity of All?

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., the Mission-Based Leadership Coach

If you are a manager or leader, you need real power and influence to get things done at work.  Many times your relationships, your authority, or your personality carry the day and you’re making the difference you want to make.  But, some days (weeks, months!), things don’t work so well!

Maybe some of the employees you supervise are not taking effective action to achieve goals at work.  You don’t want to become bossy and imperious, but it is your job to make sure that the work gets done, within the available resources, to the established standards.  You need them to follow!  What can you do?

Or maybe you’re in a situation in which your boss or one of your peers is behaving competitively with you and it’s making it difficult for you to effectively lead the organization to fulfill its mission while your peers or your boss are undermining so many of your efforts!

I’ve been there and I found it painful and confusing when I had to achieve an important goal but my influence wasn’t quite working.  In one case, there was a change in leadership and, all of a sudden, my influence in the organization seemed to be circling the drain!  I didn’t know how to fulfill my responsibilities any more and it was miserable!

That’s why I’ve studied this subject in great depth.  According to research, there are at least 6 universal principles for increasing your influence.  But, as soon as you start learning strategies that correspond to those principles, you may worry about becoming manipulative.  You know that controlling and coercive behaviors neither work well nor make you feel good.  You may wonder:

How can I continue to respect the dignity of everyone involved when I am seeking to increase my influence with them? 

How can I be sure that I am one who uses my power for good?

Dilbert cartoons can provide some insight into how challenging this is.  As a leader, I have never enjoyed the perspective revealed there—that leaders tend to view employees as exploitable and expendable resources and employees, in turn, tend to feel their dignity is not consistently honored (Elizabeth Doherty, Joking Aside, Insights to Employee Dignity in Dilbert Cartoons, Journal of Management Inquiry, Nov. 15, 2010).  I don’t think I have ever viewed employees that way– but, whether I like it or not, art does tend to reflect some kind of truth!

So, as an executive coach and a leader who sought to build a strong culture and a high-performing organization, I study both influence and dignity and I grapple with how to increase both in the workplace.  A review of the elements of dignity can help us figure out how to treat people and create a culture that both increases our influence and enhances the dignity of the workplace.  Below are some of the essential elements of dignity as identified by Dr. Donna Hicks of Harvard University (for more information, go to

It is very interesting to compare and crosswalk between the proven strategies for influence and the essential elements of dignity!

  • Accept people for who they are and as equals– neither inferior nor superior to you.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt, treating them as trustworthy and starting from a premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.
  • Recognize people for their talents, hard work and thoughtfulness and give credit to others for their contributions, ideas and experience.
  • Inclusion—make others feel that they belong at all levels of relationship.
  • Independence, autonomy, self-direction—empower people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.

There are universal principles and known strategies for increasing power and influence – important for getting things done and achieving goals.  When leaders learn the principles and strategies for increasing their influence and simultaneously give great attention to respecting the dignity of all involved, they can become the kind of leader they dream of being and make a massive positive contribution to their organization!

If you would like to learn more about how to do this, please join me and a great group of leaders at the upcoming workshop Mastering Constructive Influence in Denver May 22and 23.  It will be all day Friday and half day Saturday.  

Register at Events page.  I hope to see you there!

Want to learn more?  Watch my video!


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