The popular radio 4 programme “Woman’s Hour” holds an annual event where it sets a panel of judges the difficult task of identifying the top ten most influential women in the UK. The ability to influence and persuade people is an important business skill, so what does the 2015 list reveal about this important subject?
Influence can be defined as the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behaviour, opinions, etc. of another or others. In business we can influence others through the position we hold in the company (and the job title this comes with). The majority of people will act upon and follow the requests of someone who is in a position of formal authority, such as a Manager, in the organisation. However, the aim of the Women’s Hour list was to identify women who influenced people not because of the power that came with the job title they had, but because of their personal ability to influence those around them.
The final top ten (see below) from Womens Hour included women from a diverse range of areas from politics and fashion to journalism and entertainment:
1. Nicola Sturgeon – leader of the SNP. Chosen because she wields a large amount of influence because of the current state of the UK Union and the European Union.
2. Anna Wintour – editor-in-chief of American Vogue. Chosen because she influences the world in what to wear, how to look, and who to celebrate.
3. Angelina Jolie – actor, director and humanitarian ambassador. Chosen because of her openness about her own choices has had a powerful influence on women’s health.
4. Katharine Viner – editor of The Guardian. Chosen because she is the first woman to take up the post after she was appointed by a staff ballot in March 2015.
5. Camilla Cavendish – Director of Downing Street Policy Unit. Chosen because of the campaigns she championed which led to her gaining the position she now holds (allowing her ideas and opinions to influence the Prime Minister and all government departments – and, by extension, every person in the UK.
6. Sia – singer, songwriter and music video director. Chosen because of her success in writing songs an industry where success is more usually associated with being highly visible.
7. Caitlyn Jenner – high profile trans woman. Chosen because she is the most famous openly transgender person in the world and the influence this has had on others understanding and acceptance.
8. Karen Blackett - CEO, MediaCom UK. Chosen because of the way she runs the largest media agency and the influence this has on the way we spend money in every area of our lives.
9. Zanny Minton Beddoes – editor-in-chief of The Economist. Chosen because she is a high level opinion former who operates below most people’s radar.
10. Sara Khan – Director and co-founder of Inspire. Chosen because of her long term commitment to empower women to challenge extremism and gender inequality.
What links many of the influential women on this list was that that they used a variety of “pull” styles to influence those around them.
Pull influencing is about motivating the other individual to want to change. Pull influencing involves using tactics such as personal disclosure, involvement and showing the possibilities that will result from change. People who use pull influencing tend to work on decreasing the forces or rationale against change. Pull influencing styles can be effective in gaining commitment and high quality - but they may be slower in achieving results!
Having said that, some of the women, in my opinion, were influential because of the position rather than the person – so would this be your list of the top 10 women with the best persuading and influencing skills in the UK?