Extraordinary Influence: A book review by Bob Morris

Extraordinary Influence: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others
Tim Irwin
John Wiley & Sons (2018)

Viewed as “gardeners,” great leaders nourish extraordinary “growth” in others.

However different great leaders throughout history may be in most respects, all of them nourish personal growth and professional development in those who follow them. That is, “they bring out the best in others.” Tim Irwin wrote this book in order to share scientific evidence to explain how they do that but first, and quite correctly, he points out that many of the efforts to motivate others, in fact, accomplish the exact opposite of what is intended. “We inadvertently engage the wrong part of the brain, thus short-circuiting what influence we might have, such as advancing that person along a meaningful developmental trajectory.” My own opinion is that we cannot motivate others; however, we can activate/ignite/inspire their self-motivation.

Consider this passage from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

As Irwin knows, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. That is why leadership development programs are so important. In Chapter 9, Irwin offers for transformational actions to bring out the best in high potential employees/leaders (i.e. HiPos). These actions can accelerate the process. They can also be critically important to recruitment and onboardxing initiatives. Here they are, each thoroughly discussed in context, within the chapter’s narrative:

1. Affirm HiPos style and competence but especially their core (i.e. the best person they can be).
2. Encourage HiPos to actively build and guard their core.
3. Urge HiPos to lead from influence, not from a position of power.
4. Help HiPos to develop courage.

Re this last point of emphasis, keep in mind that Dante reserved the last — and worst — ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.

Tim Irwin provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help his readers to establish or strengthen a workplace culture within which more people light a candle and fewer curse the darkness; more people who affirm and fewer criticize. Most of the companies that are annually ranked among those that are most highly regarded and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable, with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. That is no coincidence.

How healthy is your “garden”?


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