Limits to your Sphere of Influence
Most strong leaders exhibit a great ability to influence others. This is true in many areas of life, and it certainly is often found in family businesses.
As society has evolved these past few decades (I’ve been around since the 60’s) the ways that this influence manifests itself has changed quite a bit.
I grew up in a family business and most of the first five decades of my life were very strongly influenced by my father, who was one of those strong leaders.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s death, because of my work with business families, I’ve been reflecting on the influence that my father had on me over much of my life.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Five FamBiz Strengths to Capitalize On, there is something “magic” about family businesses.
There, I mentioned,
“It may just be one of those things that you have
to experience to understand in depth.
There are aspects to these intangibles that
manifest themselves in good times and in bad.”
The Good Side, and the Bad Side
What I didn’t note there was the fact that there are also positive and negative variations of this.
And that brings us back to the question of the influence that we have over others.
Some people benefit greatly from positive role models in different aspects of their lives.
Having a great parent is wonderful, and
so is having a great boss.
When that boss is also the parent,
things can sometimes get tricky.
He Wanted a Successor
I’ve related this story verbally but haven’t written about it until now. It dates back to my childhood, but only decades later have I been able to see what occurred.
My Dad was an entrepreneur, and I was his only son, and for him, that meant that I must succeed him. What did I know?
Well, I did “know” that I was expected to live up to that duty. There’s that influence thing again.
Did I ever feel like I had any other choice?
In a word, “No”.
“You Should Become a Priest”
Meanwhile, my grandmother (on Mom’s side) lived with us until my mid-teens.
She had become pretty religious in her later years, and she often told me that she thought I should become a priest.
I used to laugh about that. Nowadays, I look back and appreciate her wisdom.
But her ability to influence my life was much more limited than my father’s.
Bowen Theory Training
As I continue my own transformation from a “business circle” specialist to one who prefers to operate in the “family circle”, Bowen Family Systems Theory has been one of my major influences.
And wouldn’t you know it, quite of few of the other trainees at Georgetown’s Bowen Center for the Study of the Family just happen to be from the clergy.
Is my grandmother smiling down at me now? Is my father shaking his head?
I don’t know.
How About “Self” Influence?
I do know that as a parent, I have tried very hard to NOT overly influence my children. I prefer to allow them to make most of their own choices, and I try to simply “stay out of their way”.
I just dreamed up the term “self-influence” and did a quick Google search to learn that others have beaten me to the punch here.
Of course, my Bowen colleagues may be shaking their heads now, knowing that the concept of “Differentiation of Self” is the “cornerstone” of Bowen Theory.
Limited Sphere of Influence
I need to tie this back to my title about the “limits” to one’s sphere of influence.
I guess that I was getting at the fact that your influence over others “should be” limited. The part about the changes in society gets at that a little.
But the other limit is temporal.
Your Time, My Time
Family business leaders tend to believe that their influence will outlast them. Many of them end up being quite wrong about that.
If you “over influence” people in ways that don’t truly resonate with them and satisfy them intrinsically, that influence will dissipate quickly; as in “right after your funeral”.
If, however, you work on your family legacy, concentrating on each family member’s human capital, you’ve got a much better chance.
P.S. I’m glad that I didn’t become a priest! (Sorry Oma).