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COMMAND vs Influence

You may be asking yourself: What does COMMAND have to do with Influence?  In fact: What is COMMAND in the first place, and why should I care? Both are really good questions.

To set the stage, I work with women who might be current or ex-military, current or ex-corporate, or strong, powerful entrepreneurs who often rely on their rank or position to use a command voice to get things done with their team and/or clients. What they often find is that their teams disappear suddenly with no warning; they are just “gone” and they don’t know why.  With clients they find they have a “one-and-done situation” – they don’t become repeat clients.

The women (my troops) come to me feeling abandoned (sometimes at very critical times for a project launch or a conference), isolated, and maybe even a bit stupid if this has become a recurring pattern.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy for them, hurts their business and their motivation, and they want it to change!!

I will tell you that I come by my command voice honestly.  I am a Major (ret) in the U.S. Army.  I learned the command voice early in my career, and used it often and effectively.  When I left the military for the corporate world as a Vice President in banking, I found myself often using the command voice to “get the job done.”

In that arena, I had a difficult time understanding why my team and I were never close.  We always had a more formal relationship, like I had with my troops in the military.  As a business owner with team members who were contract-based, I discovered the challenges and feelings I stated above.  That is not the case today and I will tell you why, but let’s start with some basics.

What exactly is command voice?

As quoted from the Army Board Study Guide: “A correctly delivered command will be understood by everyone in the unit. Correct commands have a tone, cadence, and snap that demand willing, correct, and immediate response.”  The guide also says that there needs to be “carrying power,” i.e., your voice  must reach everyone. You should be standing at Attention (in other words – stand up straight; opening the throat, mouth and nose to give amplification, resonance and projection to the voice. (

When you command someone or a group of some ones, you are not asking them to perform a task. No, you are telling them with no room for questions or hesitation.  When a command is given in the military, everyone completes the command at the same time.

Things are different on Planet Entrepreneur…

Thinking about your current business in the entrepreneurial arena … Is this how you want your team and your clients to respond to your words?  Is this the type of relationships you want to develop? I suspect this is not the environment in which you want to work, (and likely nor do they), right ?

Yet we “command types” often find ourselves frustrated and irritated with the slow speed at which things get done, especially decisions and action steps.  We’re used to our people “jumping to attention,” devoted to our command, and getting things done ASAP.  Can you relate?

How do you change what might have become an automatic response, when you may not even be aware you’re doing it?  The answer: Use your influence rather than rank or position to get things done, as well as to keep your team and clients fulfilled and motivated.

What exactly  is “influence” and why is it important?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines influence as: “the power to change or affect someone or something; the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen; a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way.”  In practice it means that you must be able to move people to action if you’re going to achieve the goals you’ve set out to reach. Influence has to do with the ability to bring others to your way of thinking without force or coercion (or command), and it’s an important skill for anyone in business.

In fact, this holds true in any leadership role situation, whether it’s a team project, planning a family vacation, supporting a candidate running for office, or bringing to the world a movement or cause that’s close to your heart.

How does it work?

It’s a lot like herding cats…

To be an influential leader takes skill and it takes practice.  You won’t get it every time. Yet if you find yourself wanting to use your command, stop … before you speak …  and take a moment to move into your influential self.

To move out of my own command voice and mindset I developed 12 steps to influential leadership, and have written a book and course materials on it: The Art of Herding Cats: Leading Teams of Leaders.  Each step is important to develop and use your influence muscle to make things happen.  That said, probably the most valuable step in becoming that leader you want to be is developing deep relationships. It means knowing your team and your clients in such a way that you treat them how they want to be treated – not how you want to be treated.  It means asking more questions and truly listening to the answers. It means being curious and keeping track of what they share with you. Get the idea?

It means that they come along on your journey, and you are joined together in the same passion, motivation and vision, which is a powerful formula for sustained success.  Your clients become loyal fans, referral sources, and cheerleaders. And, you stand to develop some lifelong friendships – which of course is priceless.

“Persuasion skills exert a far greater influence over others’ behaviors than formal power structure do.” Robert Cialdini


What does this have to do with creating a movement?  

If you have a vision to bring change to the world, be it bringing art or recess back into the schools, or bringing an awareness to behaviors that should never have been tolerated, or supporting a candidate for political office, or creating a neighborhood watch for your home, by using your influential leadership, you can begin to change the fabric of our world for the better.  Don’t let the genie of your cause slip back into the bottle because you don’t know what to do or how to do it.

There is help out there – connect with me, tell me about your vision and let’s create a movement that will impact the world.

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