a quote from one of my favorite scenes in the movie gladiator:

“the gods have spared me? i am at their mercy, with the power only to amuse the mob.”

“the mob is rome […]”

the great general and war hero maximus gets a lesson on influence from the emperor’s daughter lucilla. a man who once commanded legions as a free man was forced into slavery and fighting as a gladiator where he was now able to influence the entire empire.

for years, much like in the roman military, hierarchy inside our organizations dictated influence. the higher you were in the chain of command, the more influence you had. but since the advent of social enterprise tools, the scales of influence have tipped towards those who take an active role in participating in the conversations happening all across the organization, no matter what tier they happen to occupy.

hierarchy still plays a significant role, that is certainly true. anyone with executives who have written a blog post or who have added a post to a forum thread has no doubt seen employees fawning over them. the thanks for their post and insights and taking the time out of their day, and the showering them with likes which invariably occurs even if the information posted is the usual corporate spin. however, in this connected age, even someone without a position of power within the hierarchy can exert as much influence on an organization as any c-suite member. the critical piece in all this is how you interface with those people.

do you extend your hand to reach for an ally, or do you force them into becoming your enemy?