Influential Leadership

Project management is ideally matched to the new business environment. Project managers are experienced in “influence without authority” (Cohen & Bradford, 1990). They are accustomed to working in organizationally flat environments, where bosses do not have direct control over human and material resources but rather are influencers. Outsourcing is not new to them. For decades they have used it as an important mechanism for acquiring products and services on projects. In recent years, as organizations have reduced hierarchies and explicit chains of command, the role of employee obligation in research and popular writing on management has become more prominent than ever (Cohen & Bradford, 1990).

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When creating coordinating roles, the organizational designer must select and develop candidates who can influence without authority and who can exercise this influence across national boundaries. The designer should also create additional power bases other than authority to augment the personal skills of the coordinator. These issues must be addressed to successfully implement the coordinator role. Besides the interpersonal persuasiveness, a number of other attributes are associated with effective coordinators. First, they have expertise in the business or product lines; they need expert power if they have no position power. Second, they have good networking ability and good networks, which they use to get information and to get things done. Third, they have credibility, either through a proven track record or by some other means. But the key is still the ability to influence without authority.

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Cohen and Bradford (1990) see influencing as a process of give-and-take, in which people co-operate, giving certain things, in the expectation of receiving something of equal value in return eventually. Underpinning this notion is the law of reciprocity to which we shall return intermittently throughout the book. Reciprocity is the almost universal belief that people should be paid back for what they do. That one good or bad turn deserves another. Over time, such repeated exchanges should balance. This process is based on four precepts. First, that of mutual respect, where one must assume that the other person is competent. Second, openness, that talking truthfully to them, giving them the information they need, will help them to help you better, and vice versa. Third, trust, assuming that one party will not take any action that will hurt the other, thereby obviating the need to hold back on provision of information. Finally, there is the precept of mutual gain that is, planning how both you and they can win. Unless this is done, your alliance will break up. Cohen and Bradford (1990) classify all transactions between people in organizations in terms of the exchange of five different currencies. They label these inspiration, task, position, relationship and personal.


  • Cohen, A. R., and Bradford, D. L. Influence without Authority. New York: Wiley, 1990.

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