Never let a crisis go to waste. Long before former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel raised this concept in 2008, Sir Winston Churchill was credited for sharing this concept in the mid-1940s. And although these words came from two completely different men at two completely different points in time, the circumstances in which they shared this thought were the same. Rahm Emanuel said it during the most severe global recession in recent history, and Sir Winston Churchill said it as World War II was coming to an end. Were these men heartless opportunists who took great pleasure in the misfortune of those around them? Or were they simply publicly voicing a perspective that all successful leaders must adopt to accomplish anything of significance for themselves and those around them?
As an expert in leadership influence, I am constantly challenged by individuals who wholeheartedly believe that statements like this are inherently shady and nefarious. However, I believe that refusing to fully utilize proven strategies to help you reach moral and ethical goals is a disservice to those around you. Especially if your goals are to help your community by influencing the creation and implementation of government policies and programs. And, if influencing government policies and programs is your goal, then this article will explain how to develop an influence strategy that works.
Take Advantage of UncertaintyTo me the idea, never let a crisis go to waste, originates with the truism that 99.9 percent of humans don’t like change. In fact, we dislike change so much that we’ll even endure situations that are clearly not in our best interests just to maintain certainty in our lives. Hence the saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don't.”
But, crises are different. The level of pain and uncertainty caused by crisis creates opportunities for those with power to implement significant change with less resistance from those around them. And if you want to be one of the few with power to make real change you must ask yourself these two questions: “What is power?” and “How do I gain more power?” The first question is easy to answer. The Oxford English Dictionary defines power as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” Thus, for me, power and influence are synonymous. The second question, however, requires a bit more discussion.
How Do I Gain More Power?Through many conversations with senior leaders about the acquisition and use of influence, I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to amass and properly wield influence without first being comfortable seeking it. It is at this step where most aspiring leaders are stopped in their tracks. And, I understand their hesitancy. I, too, felt uneasy about sharing my desire to gain influence. That is, until the former US National Park Service deputy director recommended that I read the book Power and Love by Adam Kahane. This book taught me that:
- No good deed can be accomplished without some degree of influence.
- The more influence you have, the more good you can accomplish for those around you.
Don't believe me? Could Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Mohandas Gandhi, or Madam C.J. Walker have accomplished what they did with just their “good hearts”? Absolutely not. It was their political influence that opened doors that would have never been opened otherwise. They had power.
What Does This Have to Do With the 2020 Presidential Election?This election season you need to ask yourself, “How do I increase my influence to ensure that my priorities are supported?” I discuss this topic at great length in my political savvy and strategic networking courses. I have also shared one of my many strategies for gaining influence below.
Help People in Power Get What They WantYou really only have two choices following an election:
1) Fight to ensure that your initiatives are perceived as relevant to the incoming political leadership so that they’ll move heaven and earth to ensure the initiatives’ success.
2) Dig a hole in the sand and gently place your head in hoping that the incoming political leadership won’t touch your initiatives because they don’t care enough about them.
Hint. Option 1 is what influential leaders choose.
What most people fail to realize is that the number 1 priority of a political appointee is to further the president's agenda in the shortest amount of time possible. If you can help the political leadership accomplish this goal you will become like gold to them. I share a more detailed example of how you can strategically position your initiatives to be championed by political appointees in my bestselling book, Reaching Senior Leadership.