Trump & Obama – A Provocative Commentary on Power vs. Influence

When is it appropriate to use power versus influence? In this provocative video, Michael discusses:

  • How the current U.S. President relies on power over influence, and how his strategy is different than President Obama’s.
  • How George Floyd was a real-life consequence of using unnecessary power.
  • Why it’s important to use appropriate levels of power and influence and show a range of behaviors.

Modified transcript

I’m fine with our president of the United States using power, but he’s using it as the lead instead of the backup. I wish some of the presidents before Mr. Trump used power that is associated with his name, because Obama was a person who led with influence. I wish he had better backup in terms of power.

Now we go into an area that I think is really, really critical. We’re gonna slow down our content and really look at this. When do you use influence and when do you use power? When you have someone who’s off-task, inappropriate, whatever you wanna call it, and you wanna get them all the way over to here, that’s your goal. The question is, how do you do that?

Pretend that when someone is in this area here, you want them to go over to this area here. You’ve got to remember that just like the gears of your car, you have to go through neutral. Otherwise, you’re gonna end up thinking that there are two stages that someone’s in. They’re either appropriate or inappropriate. No, no, no, there’s three.

This makes a difference in terms of your operation.

Power, information, time. This concept of influence and power, ’cause you got the power, will absolutely make a difference.

Now here’s what you’re gonna find. Your first choice as a person that has power, should be to use influence. When you use influence, they go to, if you’re effective, if they’re receptive, they will go to neutral. If they go to neutral, stay with influence and they’ll tend to go on to appropriate.

But here’s what’s important. If you can’t get someone using influence to get to neutral, you have to stop using influence, you have to use power. But what’s critical is, notice we do not take power and go all the way over. You use power only to get to this. Now you have to switch back to influence to get over to here.

I’m gonna go to something rather dramatic, and then we’ll come back and talk more about it.

So when I ask myself, what am I doing about Black Lives Matter? I work mostly in education and in corporate, in both sectors, I’m trying to get people to understand what the overuse of power does. You’ve got to be able to understand this graphic.

When do you use power? When influence doesn’t work.

If you operate with influence and you don’t have any backup, you’re in trouble. The other person cooperates, the group cooperates, you’re fine. They don’t, you’re dead. You’re absolutely dead.

Now, if you use power as your first resource, you’re gonna end up just deadening. Everyone goes, “there’s always power, there’s always power, there’s always”. There’s gotta be a time when you use influence, then power has something. Then power makes a difference.

So the infrequent use of power makes power effective.

The frequent use of power, you just change the baseline. People just get used to that. So anyone who always yells, yelling is no longer effective. Someone who always smiles, that’s your baseline. You can’t do anything with that.

You’ve gotta make sure you get outside what you normally do.

What are you gonna be naturally seen as? If you’re seen as influence, dog-gone-it. You’ve gotta let them know you have power.

Now, let me give you an example. Moving back, I’m gonna pretend that I’m a new manager that’s just coming in. I wanna pretend that I just smile a lot, okay? And I’m just a happy person that bobs my head a lot and I tend to move around a lot, so I’m not seen as very credible. I’m opening my meeting and I’m going, dog-gone-it. They’re just gonna have a stereotype of me and this is gonna be tough.

So what do I do?

I go ahead and I start the meeting like this: “Hi everyone, I just came from my last position and the thing they told me at the going away party was they found me just a wonderful, wonderful person. And then we had a crisis and I changed, and I made decisions and they carried them out. So I’m really glad to be your boss, so let’s get underway.”

There’s some way in your introduction, you’ve gotta show your range of behavior. You’ve gotta show that range of behavior, ’cause if you don’t, you don’t have a wide enough range so that you can get off the baseline. Don’t have people say, “you always do, you never do.” Ah ah, ah ah.

If I’m seen as highly credible and I never move, then go ahead and start off your meeting like this. “Hello, thanks for being here. As you probably have heard, based on my reputation, I love punctuality, I appreciate it. The last group I was with, excuse my language. The nickname was, I was a hard-ass, and that’s all they saw me as. And then they finally found that I was competent and because I was competent, they were safe. My behavior was predictable and they invited me one Friday night down to the watering hole and we had a great time. They found another part of me. And what a difference that made in terms of the communication between us. So I promise, we can do both. Now, our first agenda item today will be.”

Can you indicate your range of behavior?

Do you have more influence naturally or more power? GET BOTH! Why? ‘Cause if you don’t show both and you do a switch, you’re gonna make your group dysfunctional. They go, “Whoa, where’d that come from?!” So please ,artistic schizophrenia. It’ll make a difference. When are you gonna use which?

So I wanna show you where this comes from. I really think the idea of influence and power is universal. This is where it came from for me.

So I’ve been going to Germany for over 35 years. This was graffiti spray painted on the Berlin wall. It’s been a theme of mine ever since.

This may sound funny: I’m fine with our president of the United States using power, but he’s using it as the lead instead of the backup. I wish some of the presidents before, Mr.Trump, used power that is associated with his name, because Obama was a person who led with influence. I wish he had better backup in terms of power.

It’s not choosing between one or the other, it’s trying to understand when to do which.

So I would ask you to examine yourselves when you were in certain contexts, such as in charge of people, in charge of family, in charge of… when do you tend to do which? Influence or power? How long does it take you to switch to the other one?

For more information about power vs. influence check out Michael’s book, “Charisma: The Art of Relationships.”

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