Beyond the Build



When you walk into a conference room, the normal thought is that the authority figure is seated at the head of the table. At your next meeting, I’ll challenge you to look to his or her right, and take note of who’s sitting there. That person often has the leader’s ear.

I was talking to our CFO recently about a presentation he gave on these “influencers” in contrast to “authority figures.” I thought his points were worth sharing here.

An influencer:

  • Has a reputation for being competent and showing good judgment
  • Is known for discernment, and the ability to read between the lines
  • Understands when to talk and when to listen
  • Often serves as a mediator between the person of authority and the rest of the group.

As a general rule, we respect the authority figure’s position, even if we don’t respect that person. We respect the influencer as a person, and are more likely to go to him or her for counsel.

Given this insight, I’d argue that we might be chasing the wrong thing. Instead of working hard to achieve authority, perhaps we would do better to work on gaining influence, or better yet, being a leader who also has influence. At the very least, think about who one might target on a sales platform. The person in the highest position might not be the one who ends up making the call.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.