Arnold Schwarzenegger. Abraham Lincoln. John F. Kennedy. Martha Stewart. What do these names have in common? They have “IT”. They have that mysterious quality I like to call the "IT Factor". What's that, you ask, the "IT Factor"? The "IT Factor" is that elusive and singular quality of empathizing with people on a personal level. No matter how big any of these folks are or became, we can seem to relate to them - and they to us. They seem to, at the very least, have their finger on the pulse of the ‘common man or woman’.

Oprah is another great example of this quality. Did you see how I referred to her, just then? Simply, “Oprah”. Everyone knows who I am talking about when I say her name. She has reached cult-icon status for most of us. Now that’s genuine influence! We trust Oprah. When Oprah says it, we believe it. When Oprah likes someone, everyone likes that person. Her endorsement has spawned the career of many an unknown person or enterprise.

I'm sure that now you would understand and join me in saying that all these people are charismatic, that they have that “IT Factor". We all know grasp what is meant when I say that. But how can you or I duplicate that “IT Factor” in our own lives?

A small and rather unheralded work was written in 1936 by a fellow named Dale Carnegie. That book was called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Almost 70 years later that book is still moving the world. Giant companies are re-introducing their people to its concepts - yet you can usually pick up a copy at any thrift store. That, too, is real influence!

It's a very unique little book and I highly suggest you read it. Central to its message is one key idea: If you wish to have influence with others, to be a "Beacon of Influence" as I like to call it, then you must develop the ability to connect with people on a personal, human level.

You see, it’s always about that, people dealing with people, together. Nowadays the Internet has made it possible to do so much. But for too many of us, we use it as a way to avoid facing others. To hide, if you will. We can shop, buy, research and literally “do it all” the cyber way. But with that ability, we make a trade off.

We try to accomplish things impersonally via the Internet, forgetting that to “move and shake”, to get important things done, you have to get together with other people. Sooner or later, we all have to face one another on some level and “deal”. My mom used to say, “Honey, you 'gotta learn to roll around on the floor with people if you’re ever going to be taken seriously”.

What she meant by that was that empathy for others is the key element. Empathy means to look a person in their face and really “see” the whole person for who they are. It is the crucial part. It's what Mr. Carnegie taught and what Martha and Oprah are good at.

But, to be successful at this, you have to do it with openness and be willing to risk exposing yourself in the process. It’s not a one way inspection for your sole benefit. More significant, though, is that this also means you’re the first to place trust in the relationship.

Did you catch that? By exercising empathy, YOU are the motivator and the first to bring value to the realtionship, to create open communication. It's not always easy to do, since we're often taught to be on our guard or to see what we can extract from others. To change that will likely take practice.

Do you remember Lee Iacocca during the eighties? Seemingly single handedly, he revived a failing Chrysler Motor Company and to a large degree, a flagging American auto industry in the process. He practically lived on our TV screens, in our very homes. If you're too young to remember it, just ask anyone who was there, they'll remember, I'm sure. It seemed like he came out of nowhere and we got to know ‘ol Lee. We read about him. We talked about him.

It was the same for the employees in his company. Through a constant stream of memos, inspirational stories and personal visits, he kept his employees and the American people driving forward with his vision. He connected. He empathized. He kept it up without giving up. He succeeded.

What we can learn from Lee and other’s like him? Simply this: people need to be liked and to be remembered, prompted, prodded and encouraged. On an ongoing basis, not just once and then forgotten. They like to be liked and they want to be a part of something where they feel accepted and trusted, just like the other folks in the circle. If you want to be a "Beacon of Influence", then be that for them. Get to know people, roll around with them and to bring them into your circle.

As I mentioned before, this will probably take some practice. Start slow, with baby steps. Try it on your friends and family ( let them know what you're up to first, since they may notice the change in your attitude!). My wife, Lori, says, “Just treat people like people. No games”.

Take this candid, “look ‘em in the face” concept with you wherever you go and use it with the people you meet. Be consistent and don’t give up on this one “technique”. If you do just this one thing, I’ll bet you will never need another ‘personal success’ method.

It will soon become as second nature as breathing and it will be genuine. You will soon become a 'beacon' of confidence and influence and it will be all YOU. It will be the greatest thing that people remember about you and as my friend Andy Siders says, "That is priceless". If you doubt it, just ask Oprah. I’m sure SHE would agree.

All rights reserved, © 2005, David Hutton

Author's Bio: 

David Hutton is a REALTOR(R) in Aiken, South Carolina and is pleased to write about topics from chickens to real estate. He was a recently featured contributor in REALTOR(R) Magazine Online and can be reached via email at or through his web page at