Opinion

With influence comes responsibility: here’s how to wield it wisely

- January 13, 2021 4 MIN READ

The last question I ask at the end of every episode of my podcast, Influence Unlocked, is this: “What is your one tip for people with influence?”, says Samantha Dybac, Founder & Managing Director at The PR Hub, Host of the Influence Unlocked podcast.

In just over a year, I’ve interviewed more than twenty people with influence in the fields of business, media, sport and politics to find out how they navigate the challenges and responsibilities of having a public profile.

Last week we saw the full impact of what can happen when the most powerful person in the world – the President of the United States – recklessly uses their influence over others. But for those of us who want to use our influence for good, what can we learn from the storming of Capitol Hill?

What can leaders do to make sure that the way they use their platform produces a positive impact?

Stay strong to your values and hold yourself accountable

The events of last week have shown just how much the language and actions of our leaders can influence what their followers perceive as right or wrong. In the business world, this is a good reminder that everything you do as a leader is being observed and that it helps shape your customers’ world view.

When I spoke to both Adam Jacobs, cofounder of The Iconic & Hatch, and Raelene Castle, former CEO of Rugby Australia, they both pointed out that leaders need to be acutely aware of their own values and those of their organisation, and ensure that their actions align at all times with those values. Leaders need to act in the best interests of the whole organisation, not just themselves, but they also need to be prepared to push back against forces that would have them do otherwise. At the end of a role, you should be able to look back and be proud that you have stuck to your values.

“Influence is a privilege,” says Adam Jacobs. “It’s a privilege to be able to positively impact the minds of others and what they think in their most private moments.”

Don’t just react – craft a considered response

Trump is famous for his hot-headed reactions to the controversy of the day, with Twitter, until now, being his platform of choice. But responsible leadership involves taking the time to carefully consider the facts before forming a response.

For example, take the way Gladys Berejiklian has managed the recent COVID outbreaks in New South Wales. Amidst the confusion and fear that Christmas would be cancelled for Sydneysiders, Gladys’s lines of communication have been consistent, open and to the point. She has showed up every day, even delaying her own Christmas and new year plans in order to focus on the needs of the public. And while she has faced criticism from other states and media, she hasn’t responded in a reactive or defensive way.

Through analysing the situation and carefully considering her response, Gladys has generated an extraordinary amount of trust amongst her constituents. As leaders, in times of crisis we need to demonstrate our thoughtfulness, understanding and control of the situation, and clearly communicate the steps being taken to bring about a resolution. This is the complete opposite of how Trump has operated during his presidential term, during which he has incited violence and undermined democracy, further entrenching America’s political divide.

And the world is watching. His behaviour has sent a terrible message not only to other Western countries but to the nation’s competitors, with Chinese and Russian media this week revelling in the scenes from the Capitol that depict a lack of cohesion, flaws in the system and an inability to compete on the world stage. In business, this is like broadcasting your flaws and poor business performance to your customers and competitors.

Show up and be visible to your followers

Donald Trump has taken the idea of self-promotion to incredible extremes, but promoting yourself is a key responsibility in leadership. Especially in times of crisis, people need and expect their leaders to show up and lead the way.

Influential leaders know that by promoting themselves authentically, for the right reasons, they can cut through the information that bombards us all each day. A great leader knows that self-promotion isn’t just about advancing themselves, it’s about advancing the organisation as a whole and allowing their customers or followers to share in their success.

This is the premise on which I built my own business, The PR Hub, and over the years I‘ve witnessed first-hand some amazing uses of influence for positive impact from my clients.

For example, a client of ours, HungryHungry, played a significant role in saving hundreds of hospitality businesses from going under during the pandemic lockdown when they quickly pivoted from order-at-table technology to developing online platforms for restaurants to provide delivery and take away services. Sure, it ended up being a great business move for HungryHungry, but they also helped over 1,500 venues across Australia continue trading during and beyond lockdown. It’s just one example of how self-promotion can be used for good.

As my guest Jaimie Fuller, former executive chairman of sportswear brand Skins, recently said on the podcast: “If you have a platform, you better f***ing use it.”

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