Tenet for getting clout | Sunday Observer

Tenet for getting clout

12 June, 2022

Very few people have the clout or the power to change other people’s decisions. In the past clout belonged to wily politicians and overbearing bosses. At election rallies politicians with clout changed the people’s way of thinking.

In 1956 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike revolutionized the political firmament with his oratorical skills. Voters were mesmerized by his Ciceronian style of speaking. The result was quite evident. He made Sinhala the official language and paved the way for nationalizing many private enterprises, opening the floodgates of a mini-revolution.

We hear about many other people who had clout. Dorothy Roberts, CEO of the scarf maker Echo Design Group had clout. She was one of the female executives in the United States who could reach President Clinton by phone.

How did she perform such wonderful tasks while running a small firm with 100 odd employees? She was a different employer who looked after them with extreme care. When she came to know that an employee had cancer she visited him in hospital and even paid his full salary for four months. She ran her business like a mother.

Dorothy Roberts proves an important point. Clout belongs to people who treat others well. Most employers do not know this secret. They shout at employees and punish them for the slightest lapse. Some of them are hired and fired indiscriminately.

If you speak to a cross section of employees, they will say they do not like their employers. Those who know the importance of clout maintain positive relationships with their employees. Bob Dilenschneider, head of a public-relation firm says, “Power is much softer today. To get clout you don’t yell at people, you don’t criticize them and try to get them to endorse your ideas.”

Available to everyone

Clout is available to everyone who needs it. Getting it is no longer impossible. You have only to change your attitudes. If we have politicians, employers and opinion-makers with clout, we can make a significant difference in our workplaces, community, and the country.

With the rapid expansion of knowledge people want to know how to get clout. In other words, they want others to say “yes” without thinking. One way to cultivate clout is to apply the rule of reciprocation found in every culture.

It demands that we should repay anything given to us, whether it is a gift, an invitation or a compliment. We naturally feel obligated to people or organizations that give us something. The Hare Krishna Movement used to give flowers or small books to people in the street.

Though most do not want flowers they feel an obligation to offer a donation. If you ask for a donation straightforwardly, only about 20 percent of the people will oblige. However, this jumps dramatically if you give something to the donor.

Psychologist William James developed a theory known as “As if principle.” According to the principle, if you want a quality act, act as if you already have it. The ability to influence others, or wield clout is a state of mind. During election times people come to your doorstep and promise to do certain activities. Instead of listening to them in a passive way, look them in the eye and say, “When you get elected make this road a motorway.”

Bullying rarely works

This is not the age of bullies because bullying rarely works. A boss who yells at subordinates may get temporary results, but in the long run his employees will lose their respect for him.

When a publication was launched by a business tycoon in the 1980s a lot of senior journalists of an established media house left it to work for the new publication. The exodus began with one editor and others followed suit. When Joseph Vittoria, the affable CEO of Avis Car Rental Services left, nearly 50 employees gave their resignation letters to go with him. He said, “I believe in treating people the way I want to be treated.”

It is quite easy to lose your cool. If your cool seems insurmountable try a technique Ury calls “Going to the balcony.” Leave the room for a few minutes and concentrate on new goals. When you regain your composure, re-approach your disagreements rationally and constructively. By doing so, you will regain your respect of others.

We still hear “canned laughter” being added to the recordings of television comedy shows. Sometimes we feel insulted by it but research shows that viewers find the gags funnier when they hear other people laughing even if the laughter is not real. Likewise we need some kind of social proof for what we do to feel comfortable. Advertising and marketing are often built around our need for social proof.

Spielberg’s nemesis

An old Hindu proverb says, “Help thy brother’s boat across and lo! Thine own has reached the shore.” To gain clout you have to pay close attention so that you can learn what others truly want.

Steven Spielberg, a 13-year-old boy, who later directed ‘Jurassic Park’, was tormented by the class bully. He said, “He was my nemesis. I dreamed about him.” Since Steven could not beat the bully, he decided to join him. Steven told him that he was making a film about the Nazis and wanted him to play the hero. The bully agreed to do so. After the event, the bully became Steven’s best friend. Most bullies in your school or workplace crave for acceptance and recognition. When they do not get it, they tend to act violently.

As an employer you have to establish the calm rapport necessary for empathizing. The first rule is to be a good listener. Most employers and supervisors do not listen to their subordinates. The fact of not listening to them will aggravate the situation in the workplace. As Robert Conklin says, “To the degree that you gave other people what they need, they will give you what you need.”

G.K. Chesterton said, “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” We tend to value something when it is scarce. Shopkeepers know this well and say, “Stocks won’t last.” They buy various items which are freely available elsewhere. Similarly, if both parents oppose a love affair, teenage lovers will intensify their relationship!


If you wish to be a diplomat, you need a lot of clout. They say, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone have your way.” Seasoned diplomats know how to draw others in the direction you want them to move instead of pushing the other side towards an agreement. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower knew the importance of pulling instead of pushing. In a meeting he demonstrated the art of leadership by placing a piece of string on a table. He said, “Pull the string, and it will follow whatever you wish. Push it, and it will go somewhere.”

In order to get clout, you need empathy and compassion. U.S. President John F. Kennedy faced the difficult task of solving the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. He negotiated with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, who agreed to remove all missiles from Cuba if Kennedy promised not to invade the island. Kennedy’s biographer Theodore Sorensen says, “The president laid down the line for all of us. No boasting, no gloating, not even a claim of victory. We had won by enabling Khrushchev to avoid complete humiliation – we should not humiliate him now.”

Most people with clout know how to do something surprising at the appropriate time. There will always be someone who will try to undermine your clout. On such occasions, your only option is to surprise him. Lee Iacocca goes down in history as a man who took people by surprise. As the CEO of a big organization, he had to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. It was a sensitive decision and he knew that it would not be popular. Then he announced that his salary for the next year would be $1. The employees readily agreed to have a pay cut. Unfortunately, most people in higher positions would not favour a pay cut.

The most important tenet for getting clout is to establish cordial relationships wherever you happen to be. [email protected]