Influential leadership: how many habits does it take?

What made you open this post?

Anyone like me who regularly writes a blog is always interested in that question. One of the factors that undeniably influences people is a catchy title, preferably one that addresses a problem. I quite like posing questions, while others go for the numeric option such as 7 ways to unclog a toilet or 4 steps to a 6 figure income (find your own link for that one – I’m not endorsing anyone’s get-rich-quick scheme).

My personal favourite has to be 97 ways to make a dog smile (ok it’s a book, but you couldn’t seriously expect to get that many suggestions into anything shorter). Why 97? Couldn’t the author have come up with 3 more to round it up to 100? Then again, if she had, would I have noticed the title? 97 somehow sounds much more considered and arouses my curiosity (another useful consideration when coming up with blog post titles).

Influence is such a strange thing. What influences one person positively will almost certainly put someone else off. So perhaps the golden rule is to find out as much about the person or people you want to influence and adjust your message accordingly.

To be honest, I’m not a great fan of blog titles with numbers in them (the numbers always feel a bit arbitrary); and yet judging from the sheer number of them around they clearly work. To demonstrate this, here are just a few of the many numerically titled posts I’ve found on becoming an influential leader:

So, which if any of those titles tempt you to open them and why? For me, the first is attractive because it contains the lowest number, whilst the larger number in the last one definitely puts me off (the author’s name however arouses my curiosity). The promise of science makes the middle one interesting, but the factor that draws me to this one in particular is that I know Jeff Haden’s writing. Despite his tendency to include numbers in the titles of almost all his articles, I can forgive him this as I know the content will almost certainly be good. So perhaps another factor to consider is reputation – it takes time and an established track record to become influential.

In Robert Cialdini’s best selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he summarises his research into a few key principles (6 of them if you’re fond of numbers). These are delightfully illustrated in this short animation.

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