Influence Without Authority

Book Review: Influence Without Authority by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

I’m honored to have received a couple of books for review from Wiley publishing. Influence without Authority by Allan Cohen and David Bradford (second edition) is a classic. Between the covers of this book are not only ideas about the art of getting work done through people, but a host of useful case studies and resources.

One of my first major change management projects, some 12 years ago now, lead me to believe that there had to be a better way to accomplish the cross functional negotiations that need to happen in any major change initiative. Here, in this book, are the explanations for both what worked and what didn’t work on that project. Many of the principles listed not only got my head nodding “yes!” but also help me to understand how the hard learned lessons over the past 12 years fit into the overall picture of influencing colleagues, clients, and their employees.

The Cohen-Bradford Model of Influence, while appearing simple, was a bit more difficult to really comprehend. It comprises six “steps” pictured as an inward spiral, and starts at the “outside” with “Assume all are potential allies.” Then moves inward with “Clarify your goals and priorities,” “Diagnose the world of the other person,” “Identify relevant currencies, theirs, yours,” “Dealing with relationships,” and finally at the center “Influence through give and take.” Essentially, this text deals with explaining how this model is applied in a practical manner. Most important is the concept that while for small things, we can and often do intuitively understand the give and take in a transaction, for large complex transactions we need to be more methodical and think through our process, goals, interests and those of our allies. Hence, the model.

Of particular interest to me was this text’s recognition that organizational change can be very complicated, and so dedicated several chapters to that process alone. Between these chapters, the case studies providing real life examples, and yes, the model itself, this book is invaluable to those either in or consulting to organizations wanting to move forward – because that means managing complex change and the need to influence people as well as leading them.

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