Leadership: Influence with Information

I’ve been watching the Public Television show on Bill Clinton’s presidency the past two days and one of the things I’ve been most interested in is how much confidence and skill President Clinton had around influence.

Almost everyone (at least the democrats) described Clinton as the consummate influencer. Put him in a room with just about anyone and he would win them over through his power or personality . I’ve been around a few national politicians and I know that they have an amazing ability to make someone feel a constituent feel like the constituent is the most important person in the world and I imagine Bill must have had this skill to the nth degree.

The show described the story about the Federal shutdown and how Clinton was sure that if he got then Speaker Newt Gingrich in a room with him, he could win him over and get Gingrich to back down from his request for a balanced budget. But no matter what Clinton did, Newt would not budge.

What broke the stalemate was when Clinton’s pollster and trusted friend, Dick Morris conducted a poll of Americans and determined that citizens wanted a balanced budget but not on the backs of Medicare and Social Security recipients. Armed with that information, Clinton and his team played out that scenario and convinced the republicans to yield on their budget requirements.

Being a great influencer requires a great many skills and may vary from “I feel your pain” (Clinton) to “I’ll kick your ass” (LBJ). Regardless of the tools of the trade nothing else is more important than having the right information to know how the tide is turning and the wind is blowing.

©  Richard Citrin, 2012

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