Control vs. Influence

This is a guest post by S Ranganathan. I got a chance to interact with Ranganathan during a leadership development program that I attended at ISB. Ranga, as he would like to be called, is a regular Executive Coach at ISB where he partners with different trainers in their Global Leadership Program. Ranga holds a Post Graduate degree in Management from IIM Bangalore preceded by a Post Graduate degree in Mathematics from IIT Chennai. Ranga is the Founder-Director of SymIndia Training and Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.—an organization based in Bangalore that caters to the high-end Consulting and Training needs in both Technology and Management Domains. He can be contacted at ranga [at] symindia [dot] com.

What is the difference between Control and Influence?

This question was triggered when I read the following statement in a book recently:

“Our main source of stress stems from our desire to control things around us, people around us, situations around us and above all control ourselves.

I have been training many professionals on Leadership wherein the main leadership competence we discuss is Influence. The above question is indeed worth exploring in this context.

Before we come to the differences between Control and Influence, let’s notice that both of them have some commonality too:

To challenge the current situation (than accept status-quo mutely)

To cause a change in the thinking/behavior of others

High belief in oneself

High energy levels

Now, lets focus on the differences between Control and Influence: Here is how I see it… when Person-A is interacting with Person-B

Aspects to Consider



Verbal Language

Judgmental, Comparing, Extreme

Balanced, Apt

Tonality of the Person-A

Threat, Command

Care, Respect

Emotions Triggered in Person-B

Fear, Guilt, Greed (Stress comes from here!)

Joyful Motivation

Final state of mind for Person-B

Insecurity, Helplessness (in extreme cases even Revengeful)

Trust and Security

State of Mind of Person-A (if he/she experiences failure in the attempt )

Anger, Irritation (Stress comes from here!)

Acceptance, Introspection

Communication between the two persons

One-way, Instructional

Two-way, Discussing

Possible techniques used by Person-A

Shouting, Closing channels of communication, Walk-outs, Broken-record (on final decision) (Stress comes from here!)

Polite persuasions, Objective and data-based, Open channels of Communication, Broken-record (on outlook and analysis)

Timing chosen by Person-A

Appropriate moment for Person-A, many times last-minute!!

Chosen appropriate moment for Person-B, Early in cycle

Information shared

Very selective

Open to any information

Final state desired by Person-A

As ‘required’ by Person-A!!

Outcome of open discussion

Attitude of Person-A to „home-work to be done before dialog

Not necessary

Very essential

Body Language

Aggressive, rude (sometimes projected submissiveness)


Listening demonstrated by Person-A


Active Listening

Listening demonstrated by Person-B


Active Listening

Self-esteem of Person-A

Requires development


Self-esteem of Person-B (during and after the dialog)


Maintained, Increased

Basic Temperament

Agitated, Restless

Calm, Excited

Belief in Higher-self



Please note that the above aspects have NOT been listed in any specific order. These are just different aspects as I could fathom!