Losing Control

There’s nothing like having two young kids to teach you that you can’t control much. And what’s true in parenting is also true in leading of any kind.

Just like I wish I could control my kids and get them to sit still and focus on eating, stop coming into my room at 3 in the morning, and please, please, please just put their shoes on the first time I ask, I often hear leaders at all levels in an organization frustrated about their lack of control in various situations.

“If I could only get the board to be more involved in fundraising… If my boss would just stop changing her mind and giving me different priorities every week…. If my major gift officer would just focus on his work instead of getting distracted by the latest new idea…”

What they are really saying is, “If I could just control these people, I could control the results.”

The truth is you can’t control anyone, even the people that report to you.

The good news is you can influence nearly everyone, no matter where you are in the hierarchy of an organization. So how do you go about expanding your influence?

1) Build Trust. Sometimes old school is still super relevant as in the case of the Stephen Covey saying that “Change happens at the speed of trust.”

2) Genuinely care. If change happens at the speed of trust, I believe trust happens at the speed of relationship. People have to deeply believe you care in order to hear you, and trust you enough to be influenced by your request or your new ideas.

3) Model the way. Borrowing from another classic, The Leadership Challenge, modeling is the most powerful form of teaching and influencing.

4) Celebrate the wins. People are less likely to resist new ideas and new ways of doing things if you have a culture of appreciation and recognition. And there are so many simple, low or no cost ways to show your appreciation and recognize when someone does something right, and it really makes a difference.

When it comes to being an effective leader, growing your ability to influence is your surest path to success.

If you want to dive even deeper into how to expand your powers of influence, the classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a fun and entertaining read. And let’s be real, if you don’t have time to read the whole book, this video sums it up in just a few minutes!

Amy Varga

Amy Varga


Amy Varga is a beloved fundraising trainer, coach and consultant. She and her team at The Varga Group have guided over a hundred nonprofit clients to raise millions of dollars through their services in capital campaign counsel, major gifts training, leadership coaching, and board development projects.