"Crucial Influence: Leadership Skills to Create Lasting Behavior Change" by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, and Ron McMillanImage: Amazon

Crucial Influence walks you through the process of identifying the personal, social, and structural levers that influence both motivation and ability, then engaging these levers for directed behavior change.

“At the end of the day, leadership is intentional influence,” the authors write. “If behavior isn’t changing, you aren’t leading.” Whatever you’re seeking to change through effective leadership―from making virtual workforces work to tackling a social issue―influence, not authority, is what will get you there. You’ll learn to view leadership through the new lens of influence as you apply the lessons from this book to everyday challenges.

Crucial Influence

Leadership involves deliberate influence. If there’s no observable change in behavior, one is not truly leading.

Contrary to some perspectives from the past, leadership goes beyond creating inspiring visions or challenging the existing norms. It’s not merely about devising groundbreaking products or meticulously planning business growth, tasks that a solitary genius in isolation can accomplish.

Leadership is the act of rallying others to realize a vision, challenge the status quo, innovate products, and flawlessly execute ambitious plans. It’s a human process of collaborative achievement. Genuine leaders possess the consistent ability to bring about rapid, profound, and enduring changes in behavior to yield valuable outcomes.

When we mention Crucial Influence, it’s not in the context of the less admirable and dubious tool known as persuasion. This book doesn’t revolve around resolving issues or reaching new goals by employing verbal tricks. If your aim is to achieve modest goals by subtly imposing your will on others, this book isn’t the right fit. Additionally, the term “influencer” today often refers more to online popularity than the ability to lead meaningful change. Everywhere you turn, there’s a risk of encountering a self-proclaimed “influencer.” While some may excel at garnering attention, only a select few have demonstrated the capability to consistently initiate systematic change.

Crucial Influence Model

Crucial Influence Model

How the Model Works

Effective leaders confront Crucial Influence challenges in the opposite direction from the usual flow of the world.

On the left, you encounter what resembles a six-pane window, marked as the “Six Sources of Crucial Influence.” While we will delve into these sources in detail later, it’s beneficial to consider that there are six distinct types of Crucial Influence that play a role in shaping our decisions.

As you progress to the right, you encounter a hamster wheel labeled “Vital Behaviors.” The concept here is that when the six sources of Crucial Influence remain consistent over time, they contribute to our decision-making and Crucial Influence our behaviors. These behaviors, in turn, lead to “Results” (located on the far right)—outcomes that can be both positive and negative.


Consider this scenario: Suppose you are employed in a hospital setting. Due to various factors (coming from the six sources of Crucial Influence), a significant number of doctors and nurses neglect proper hand-hygiene practices. If these underlying reasons persist without change, these lax practices can solidify into established organizational norms characterized by poor hygiene habits. Consequently, these undesirable habits can lead to repercussions (results), such as a rise in hospital-acquired infections. This illustrates the functioning of the world in this context.

Now that you have a grasp of how the world functions, you’re better equipped to instigate change. The method for changing the world within this model involves moving from right to left. Yes, that’s correct – effective leaders confront Crucial Influence challenges in the opposite direction from the usual flow of the world. They deploy three interconnected skills to navigate from right to left:

  1. Begin with results: Exceptional leaders excel at clearly defining their desired outcomes and establishing measurable criteria for success.
  2. Identify a select few vital behaviors: Pinpoint a concise set of crucial behaviors that, when altered, have a disproportionate impact on improving results.
  3. Engage all six sources of influence: Harness the power of all six Crucial Influencesources to bolster and reinforce the identified vital behaviors. This strategic approach maximizes the potential for successful and sustainable change.

6 Sources of Influence

Source 1. Pesonal Motivation

Let’s begin with the Crucial Influence source that individuals most commonly incorporate into their leadership endeavors: personal motivation. When observing others consistently engaging in undesired actions, ask the question “Do they derive pleasure or a sense of meaning from those actions“. Particularly when dealing with ingrained behavior, personal motivation often plays a crucial role in driving and sustaining change.


Consider the case of Dr. Donald Hopkins and the mission to eradicate Guinea worm disease.

Dr. Donald Hopkins applied a similar approach to identify a crucial behavior for eradicating the Guinea worm, a formidable challenge. Despite numerous villages consistently experiencing infections, occasional exceptions existed. In these unique cases, even though residents drew water from the same contaminated ponds as their neighbors, Guinea worm infections were rare. Curious about this anomaly, Dr. Hopkins and his team observed the villagers closely and soon unraveled the mystery.

As they followed villagers to the ponds, a stark contrast in behaviors emerged. In areas with high infection rates, residents typically brought a single gourd or bucket to collect compromised water, which they then brought back to the village for use. In contrast, the positive deviant neighbors, who experienced fewer infections, exhibited a distinct practice. They carried two gourds to the pond, submerging one in the water and covering the second with a piece of cloth, using it to pour and filter the water. This observation unveiled the first vital behavior crucial to the eradication effort.

After identifying a critical behavior to prevent the disease’s spread (filtering water before consumption), Dr. Hopkins and his team faced the challenge of influencing people to adopt this necessary behavior. In this pursuit, they strategically employed all six sources of Crucial Influence.

For instance, Dr. Hopkins recognized that villagers would be unlikely to filter their water unless they felt a sense of purpose in doing so (such as protecting their children from distressing infections). Subsequently, Dr. Hopkins devised influence methods to present water filtering as a means of safeguarding children for those he aimed to influence.

Source 2: Personal Ability

Motivation, while crucial, doesn’t stand alone. To comprehend why individuals may fall short in doing what’s necessary, consider this: Do they possess the capability? Enjoying an activity doesn’t guarantee success; individuals must also possess the requisite skills, talent, and understanding to execute each vital behavior effectively.

For instance, the process of water filtering can be prone to errors. Using a loosely woven cloth, inconsistently filtering gourds, or neglecting to fully cover the vessel’s opening can allow larvae to slip through. Competence in skills is paramount. In the context of eradicating Guinea worm, involving villagers in hands-on practice under the guidance of proficient peers proved instrumental in making a significant impact.

Source 3. Social Motivation

Following that, it is essential to explore the social dimension of Crucial Influence by inquiring: Do other people encourage them to repeat the wrong behavior?

Despite the considerable advantages of water filtering in villages, the adoption of this new habit is often slow until individuals see those they hold in high regard embracing it. The fear of standing out as an outsider can be a powerful deterrent. Dr. Hopkins was meticulous in not only considering the message but also the messengers employed to promote these new behaviors. He strategically selected formal leaders and influential community members to assist in conveying his message.

Source 4. Social Ability

Others not only serve as a source of motivation but can also facilitate crucial behaviors. To scrutinize this significant Crucial Influence source, inquire: Are others offering assistance? Are they empowered to carry it out? Villagers exhibited a higher likelihood of adopting the filtering habit when Dr. Hopkins arranged for friends to model it, provide feedback, and even loan a spare filtering cloth when needed.

Source 5. Structural Motivation

Even leaders who think about both individual and social factors are often blind to the role “things” play in encouraging and enabling vital behaviors. To check for this source, ask: Are they rewarded for doing it, or punished for not doing it?

Dr. Hopkins often used token rewards for doing the new behavior to jumpstart change—a T-shirt here and a bag of rice there can help people attempt an uncomfortable new habit.

Source 6. Structural Ability

Lastly, the physical and virtual environments we inhabit, along with the structure of our work and social systems, can either foster or impede performance. To assess this Crucial Influence source, consider: Does their environment facilitate their actions?

For instance, Dr. Hopkins and his team advised village leaders to restrict access to ponds, allowing entry only at designated points. This measure streamlined the process of experts observing water-gathering activities, ensuring that everyone adhered to proper filtering practices.

Is it meaningful or pleasurable?

Leadership Tip:
“Help them love what they hate”
Source 2:
Can they do it?

Leadership Tip:
“Help them do what they cant”
SOCIALSource 3:
Are they encouraged to do it?

Leadership Tip:
“Provide encouragment”
Source 4:
Are they enabled to do it

Leadership Tip:
“Provide assistance”
Source 5:
Are they rewarded for doing it or punished for not doing it?

Leadership Tip:
“Change their economy”
Source 6:
Does the environment enable it ?

Leadership Tip:
“Change their enviromnet”

How can a Leader influence behaviour?

In the complex landscape of leadership, the ability to influence others positively stands as a cornerstone for driving change and achieving organizational goals. Understanding the intricacies of Crucial Influence is paramount for effective leadership. Here, we delve into six key leadership tips focused on the topic of Crucial Influence:

“Help them love what they hate”

Leadership often involves navigating resistance and overcoming reluctance. To influence others, it’s essential to identify the aspects they dislike and find ways to transform those perceptions. Whether it’s through emphasizing the long-term benefits, providing a fresh perspective, or connecting the task to a larger purpose, helping individuals find joy or meaning in tasks they dislike can lead to a shift in attitude and behavior.

“Help them do what they can’t”

Empowering individuals to surpass their perceived limitations is a hallmark of influential leadership. This tip revolves around instilling confidence and providing the necessary support and resources for individuals to tackle challenges that seem insurmountable. By fostering a culture that encourages growth and development, leaders can inspire others to step outside their comfort zones and achieve feats they once deemed impossible.

“Provide encouragement”

Encouragement is a powerful tool in the leader’s arsenal. Acknowledging and appreciating efforts, no matter how small, can have a profound impact on motivation and morale. Positive reinforcement fosters a sense of accomplishment and boosts confidence, making individuals more receptive to the influence of their leaders. Regularly providing genuine and specific encouragement creates a positive feedback loop that fuels continuous improvement.

“Provide assistance”

Offering assistance demonstrates empathy and a genuine commitment to the success of others. Whether it’s providing guidance, resources, or a helping hand, leaders who actively assist their team members build trust and credibility. This supportive approach not only facilitates the completion of tasks but also strengthens the leader-follower relationship, making individuals more open to influence and guidance.

“Change their economy”

In the context of influence, “economy” refers to the perceived value individuals associate with their actions. Leaders can influence behavior by altering this perceived value. This might involve highlighting the personal or organizational benefits of a particular task or illustrating how it aligns with individual goals. By changing the perceived economy of actions, leaders can motivate individuals to prioritize tasks and behaviors that contribute to overall success.

“Change their environment”

Environment plays a significant role in shaping behavior. Leaders can influence by creating an environment conducive to positive change. Whether it’s restructuring physical spaces, fostering a supportive team culture, or providing access to necessary resources, altering the environment can remove barriers and encourage desired behaviors. A positive and empowering environment reinforces the influence of leadership in guiding individuals towards common goals.

In conclusion, mastering the art of influence is a fundamental aspect of effective leadership. By employing these six leadership tips – helping individuals find joy in challenges, empowering them to surpass limitations, providing encouragement and assistance, changing the perceived economy of actions, and shaping a positive environment – leaders can create a culture of influence that drives meaningful and lasting change within their teams and organizations.

Other books in the series

Other books in the series