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Start to Effect Change by Recruiting Allies

Robert Greene’s bestselling book The 48 Laws of Power takes a relatively Machiavellian view of small-scale politics by analyzing modern power dynamics against a frame of what it would have been like to be in the court of a king in the middle ages.

I became interested in this book a few years ago, owing to the fact that I am always interested in influence and power dynamics. Greene’s laws can certainly be seen as a guide for how to be evil, and of course I don’t recommend adopting most of its ideas. However, the book illustrates a way to understand people and power and I thought it was a valuable read for that reason.

Book cover of Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power

As Online Image moves into the new year, I want to riff off one of the overarching themes discussed in the book: the importance of building alliances and gaining supporters. In addition to using these ideas to help your company find financial success and gain clients, executives and other leaders can use them as they grow their company culture and guide organizations in new and innovative directions.

Identify People Who Are Natural Social Leaders

Extrapolating on advice from the book, it would be effective find a few employees who are natural social leaders and getting them on your side. This technique of finding “early adopters” is especially important whenever you are trying to affect change on a grand scale.

The first step, of course, will be making a plan for your intended change – be intentional and specific. Leaders who waver don’t stay leaders for long. Then, you’re ready to find early adopters who can help you spread the message and help get others on board.

Choose Early Adopters

You might already know who these people are, or it might take some work to identify them. First, realize that they might not necessarily be in management positions. However, they will be:

Find allies who are already social leaders as a first step toward making change happen.

Find allies who are already social leaders as a first step toward making change happen.

Outgoing and generous – they already have the trust of the people they work or socialize with.

Self-confident and assertive – they are not afraid to voice unpopular opinions when they’re sure their ideas are valuable.

Charismatic – do you have an employee or friend who regularly organizes casual lunches or happy hours? Is there a person whose jokes or way of speaking has spread throughout the company or organization?

Perhaps not your favorite – these leaders may even have caused changes you don’t like, but you need them on your side. Making friends out of these potential enemies can be particularly effective, as Greene explains in his book.

Forge New Alliances

The next question quickly becomes how to get these people to adopt your goals and spread the word. Dozens of books have been written on this subject, and we couldn’t possibly cover all the possible techniques in this space. However, we can suggest an outline, cobbled together from throughout the 452-page book:

  • Find ways to be impressive yourself – gain respect
  • Get your social leaders to trust you
  • Make sure they know you value them
  • Make your attention toward them seem like a privilege
  • Get their input and feedback on your ideas
  • Use that input to your advantage by finding ways it speaks to your goal
  • Adjust the way you talk about your goal based on their feedback
  • Find ways your goals can benefit these natural social leaders on a personal level
  • Bring the leaders together as a team and make your goal a shared one
  • Go forth and conquer!

Leadership can never be effective when a person stands alone. It’s an idea as old as time – consider ancient stories such as that of Moses and Joshua. You can also find modern examples of leadership by alliance such as the Neil deGrasse Tyson’s promotion of science in popular culture with the help of none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy. Follow these examples and you will be on your way to leadership success. Better yet, unless you have a tendency toward sadism, read the book. It’s available at almost all libraries, or you can buy a copy from Amazon by clicking here.