Lead without authority

July 1, 2002
K. C. Warner
K. C. Warner

K.C. Warner is a market impact specialist who works with pharmaceutical sales training departments to increase market share and management performance. She can be reached at Warner Development at (800) 845-6108 or via e-mail at KCWarner@ WarnerDevelopment.com.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Ways to build influence and power.

When you first joined the pharmaceutical industry, you were excited and optimistic about your skills and your ability to get things done in the territory. Over time, you may have become discouraged and frustrated because it felt impossible to gain access, your boss wouldn't provide you the funding you needed for your revolutionary physician education program and your counterparts seemed more interested in their own agendas than moving the business.

You may ask yourself, "Why won't anyone listen to me? Why do I feel like I am running in circles, trying to get things done? Why is it that other representatives seem to have better teammates than I do?" You talk with colleagues from your new-hire sales training class who are not experiencing the same frustrations. "Why do they still sound so optimistic?" you wonder. "Why are they getting so much more done than I am?"

It doesn't take very long to learn that to be successful in the job of a pharmaceutical sales rep, you must learn to lead others to success: your counterparts, your boss, pharmacy and therapeutics committees, and physicians. And you don't often learn to do this in business school; I know I didn't. It took practice to learn to influence peers, bosses and "corporate."

In the pharmaceutical industry, leading without authority is achieving your goals by helping others achieve their goals. It's simple to understand, but it isn't easy.

Leading without authority capitalizes on other leadership skills we have demonstrated many times in our lives. We know how to lead; it just becomes difficult when others see us as a peer and not their leader.

Where does influence come from?

How do you lead other sales representatives, your peers, without being in a management position? How do you lead your boss? How can you lead people without having power? You can't. You must have power in order to influence and lead. But the definition of power in this context is not what you might think.

Power tends to have a negative connotation because some people who are in positions of power take advantage of others. The kind of power we're encouraging is the kind that helps people get things done in a mutually beneficial way.

Power and influence are often used synonymously, but think about this: Many people in positions of power may not be influential, but influential people, many of whom are not in positions of power, have power.

Having power does not mean you have to be a CEO - it means that you draw upon your own sources of power in order to persuade or influence others. As sales representatives, we don't have positions of power, so we have to use our leadership skills to gain influence in the field.

Many of us bring power to the position right now. Let's take a look at the different types of power that can be used to influence. Which do you have today?


•Â Position power. This type of power comes to you by virtue of your position or title. For example, you may be a medical center representative.


•Â Personal power. This type of power comes from the personal characteristics that people find attractive, influential or persuasive, and is closely associated with friendship. For example, you may have what many people refer to as "presence."


•Â Expert power. This type of power is based on the expertise that you may have in a special field or knowledge area. For example, you many have an extensive business background.


•Â Opportunity power. This type of power entails being in the right place at the right time. For example, your boss has agreed to run a high-exposure pilot marketing initiative in your area.


•Â Information power. This type of power depends upon access to information and is directly related to expert power. For example, you may have personal relationships with senior management.

Great leaders

Influential leaders find ways to work with other people in order to reach common goals. What great leaders know is that people in different situations or positions need and expect different things from you. They will utilize the approaches listed above in the appropriate situations. Here are proven strategies to influence those around you:

How to influence peers:


•Â Be a great salesperson first.


•Â Find ways to help peers reach their goals.


•Â Try to understand their problems.


•Â Look for common goals you can pursue together.


•Â Facilitate problem-solving.

How to influence your bosses:


•Â Look for ways to solve their problems.


•Â Show appreciation for what they do to help.


•Â Encourage them to discuss problems.


•Â Point out new ways they can use your skills.


•Â Be loyal, even when it's difficult.


•Â Provide benefits that are not expected.

How to influence "corporate":


•Â Recognize programs that work.


•Â Make your successes visible.


•Â Present and apply ideas broadly (how they impact the entire organization).


•Â Select issues that are solvable.


•Â Show how you can help them meet

their goals.

Next steps

Now, what do we do with this information?

Use the following steps to determine how to develop more influence.


•Â Consider where you are right now versus where you would like to be when it comes to influencing those around you. Where do you have influence now? Where do you need more influence?


•Â Assess your level of influence.


•Â Identify "success pathways." A success pathway is defined as what needs to happen for your counterpart to achieve his or her goal. Use these three questions to help determine success pathways for this person:

- What does success look like for this person?

- What does this person enjoy doing at work?

- Where does this person see him/herself one year from now? Five years from now?


•Â List what you can do to help your counterpart reach his or her goals.

Let's say you have identified your counterpart as someone with whom you would like to have more influence. You have currently assessed your influence with this person at about a four on a scale of one to 10. If you know your counterpart's goals and success pathways, then you can help work on a successful situation for this person. When you have helped someone reach his or her goals, you can gain more influence.

Remember that it doesn't happen overnight. Leading without position power is difficult, but it works. When you develop a plan for influencing others, you will not only help others, you will help others help you reach your goals. PR

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