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Connie Dieken Headshot

What GQ's Influence List Gets Wrong

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GQ has released its list of the "25 Least Influential People."

Here's the problem: The list measures the wrong thing. Before you say, "Lighten up, Connie," please consider that I get it. I've spent the past decade as an executive coach, but my previous career was in -- gasp -- journalism. I understand that the "Least Influential" list is meant to be provocative, even profane, to win attention in a media-saturated world. Being GQ, the list is clever and targets the interests of its male audience.

But even writer Drew Magary concedes that the very premise of the list is dead wrong. For example, as he notes about his #6 pick, foam finger-toting Miley Cyrus, "What's sad is that it totally worked."

Which means that she does have influence.

So let's get down to brass tacks. What is influence? We'll begin with the root cause. Influence is the ongoing experience that others have with you. Now more than ever, you must earn and re-earn your influence where it's rooted -- in others' hearts and minds. In our skeptical society, people are remarkably quick to judge, resist, and dismiss even the best and the brightest among us. You cannot control the influence you have with others. Others assign it to you -- or strip you of it, one experience at a time.

Accepting that influence is a fluid, ongoing relationship with others is a crucial distinction -- whether you're trying to contribute to your organization, your family, your world, or your pocketbook.

The outcome of being influential is that your leadership presence can affect change -- either positive or negative change. When you have influence, you have gravitas. People seek your voice amid the noise. They willingly follow you. They give you first crack at their bandwidth -- intellectual or otherwise. Your contributions gain momentum faster and make things happen.

The opposite of influence is the neutral state. Non-influential people neither inspire nor turn people off. Their presence and ideas just hover, wasted.

Every person on GQ's "Least Influential" list has influence; Tim Tebow; Pope Benedict; Paula Deen. And yes, even Miley Cyrus. Perhaps their spheres of influence have changed, but make no mistake, each is influential or their name wouldn't appear in an issue of a magazine that exists to provoke change.

The real issue is whether any of them -- and more importantly, whether YOU -- create ongoing experiences that lead others seek your voice, trust you, and willingly follow your lead.

Now that's a list worth making. That's the real deal.