In a world that is often obsessed with force, much more is accomplished every day through influence.
Every year Monocle magazine publishes a soft power index chronicling the rising influence of various nations. Much of that soft power is attributable to the influence generated through tourism, aid, music, arts and other creative endeavours. These activities build connection, reciprocity and trust and importantly improve influence by making a nation a leading example or aspiration that others wish to follow.
In organisations, soft power plays a critical but often unexamined role. Role models have great influence. Invisible networks of advice, support, trust and generosity weave through organisations. With increasing options off exit, voice or passive resistance, people choose to follow much more than they are forced. I have never seen a leader survive a mutiny so force has its limits.
A famous HBR article once asked:
‘Why should anyone be led by you?’
The article’s recommendations highlight the human side of leadership. They focus on examples of soft power like empathy, understanding, vulnerability, interpreting soft data and leveraging personal strengths and inspiration.
Everyone in an organisation has the ability to build and leverage their soft power. It comes from building strong personal networks. In an era where networks are increasingly important understanding and using levers of soft power is increasingly important.
Soft power is ultimately the way leaders address the soft issues of management. The soft issues of management are the hard ones to solve. Edicts are easy. Engagement is hard.
Take a purposeful stand that reflects who you are. Engage with others with generosity, creativity, empathy and trust. LIke Monocle’s creative nations, you will find collaboration becomes easier, others follow your lead and your influence on the rise.
Your soft power is you.