Excerpted from Francis Cholle’s The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass
Leading by influence is about relinquishing control and allowing the natural creative process of evolution. This may seem paradoxical, but in other cultures it is not. In Zen Buddhism the master leads his disciples in their apprenticeship through question (Kohan), not commands. When chiefs of Native American villages were asked what decision to make (going to war, leaving the village in case of an attack, and so on), the chief would answer with a question, not an order. Exerting power and control is not necessarily the best form of leadership, especially not when you wish to develop autonomy and creativity among your team members. Although conventional wisdom regarding leadership is about aligning objectives, strategies, and people, leadership by influence recognizes that dissonance and tension, ambiguity and complexity, chaos, and the unknown are equally and necessary aspects of business. This is why this type of leadership cannot seek control: chaos cannot be controlled, and complexity makes it hard to determine the outcome of one’s strategy, so influence is more effective than control. To lead by influence means to guide without control over the outcome. In a complex global economy in which creativity is rated the top business skill, a keen understanding of this new way of leadership is mandatory to innovate, reinvent, motivate, change, and make an organization successful.