Influence Where You Least Expect It

Rick Wartzman

In his latest post for, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman examines how power and influence in organizations can often be exerted from unexpected quarters.

Wartzman illustrates this idea through the experience of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which is using “social mapping” software to see who in the organization is routinely called upon to offer advice or is otherwise a hub of influence, regardless of the person’s title or place in the company’s formal hierarchy.

Thrivent’s story shows “that your org chart doesn’t always tell you much about who is really in charge—and that holds true all the way up the chain,” Wartzman writes. He then quotes Peter Drucker, who remarked: “Any CEO who believes he controls the organization is kidding himself. The people in the accounting department control you. The people in the plants control you. It’s like Truman’s statement when Eisenhower was elected president: ‘Poor Ike. He’ll sit in that big office and push a button and nothing will happen!’”

Using social mapping, as Thrivent has, isn’t easy. It “requires a lot of trust throughout the organization—a rarity in today’s business world,” Wartzman notes. “Even when trust runs high, you should be prepared to be totally transparent about what social mapping involves, and why you’re doing it.

“What’s more, you can never penalize people because of the candid feedback you receive from their colleagues,” Wartzman adds. “If such information is used to ‘impose control . . . from above,’ Drucker warned, it will ‘inflict incalculable harm by demoralizing’ the entire workforce.”