Young adults spend tens of thousands of dollars to attend college in hopes of someday developing an employable skill set. Before entering the workplace, many are unaware that influence is more powerful than skill set.
Some people never realize it.
Those who never realize the awesome power of influence are destined to slog it out alone, forever frustrated that they could never rally a crowd to gather behind any one cause.
Skills are But a Toe in the Foot of an Influential Life
A skill set is just a toe in the doorway of employment – employers always start with a prospect’s skill set when reviewing a resume – but influence swings the door widely enough for the alpha dog to lead his pack through.
Influence is also essential for a successful life outside the confines of the workplace. Parents use influence to get the kids up for school, through dinner, and back to bed without arguments or drama.
Spouses coerce each other into doing household chores, compromising on vacation plans, and even playing new games in the bedroom. One neighbor persuades another to turn down the music or pick up after the dog – all coercion tactics – skill sets have nothing to do with these victories outside the boardroom.
So What is "Influence" Anyway?
Influence is the capacity to have an effect. Leaders use influence to move large groups of people in a particular direction. In other words, a skill set is nice but influence is power.
Strong skill sets are the foundation that sets a level playing field among workers. Basic investment skills, for example, allow traders to use their own money to buy and sell stocks. Influence, on the other hand, allows investment bankers to risk other people’s money.
A skill set draws admiration, most certainly, but it does not win hearts or minds – or followers, money, fame, or prestige. Imagine a writer who can describe everything in a room with incredible detail but does not persuade her writers to feel any emotion. A skill set without persuasion leaves bystanders bored and unimpressed, uninspired to take up any particular cause.
A skill set without the capacity to persuade is a course of desolation, isolation, and dead ends. On the other hand, influence leads to monumental change, even if in the wrong direction.
When historians create lists of the most significant figures throughout the centuries, they are most likely to name influential people rather than highly skilled individuals.
Tomorrow’s historians are likely to judge a person’s influence by his number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Alexandria T. Phan, MD, is the one of the best endocrinologists in the world, for example, yet Justin Bieber influences a wider audience of people with a single tweet on Twitter than Dr. Phan could ever dream of.
The capacity to influence becomes incrementally more important than skill set at higher social, professional, and personal levels.
A welder on the assembly room floor might have mad skills with a blowtorch at the local pipe plant, for example, but he will never become a manager until he shows that he can influence other workers into producing a quality product. By the time he reaches the highest levels of management, he will use his capacity to influence much more often than his skill with a blowtorch.
Politicians are perhaps the best examples of the increasing importance of persuasion at the higher levels of success. The mayor of Poduck City, USA, most certainly does not need as powerful a grip as the mayor of New York City.
Someone does not have to be a politician or person of influence to be influential. It is not necessary to be in the 1 percent to be influential – anyone can do it.
People in every profession can benefit from the power of persuasion, including a phlebotomist who talks the patient into enduring even more pain and the new car salesperson pitching the warranty to a buyer already worried whether he can cover the terms of the loan. The power of persuasion is essential for success in every job.
Influence will always be more powerful than any particular skill set, even if those skills are rare, lucrative, and essential. College students of tomorrow should consider taking courses in how to influence others to truly succeed.