Take a moment, if you would, to consider the people you know who have clout. They’re the ones who can walk in to a room and own it. They’re just as likely to appear in your social group as they are at work - clout is clout wherever you find it.
You don’t need to like people who have clout, you just need to respect them. They often seem to get what they want out of life and perhaps, deep down, you would like a bit of that clout for yourself.
You can probably name the people in your world who have this rare and elusive quality on one hand and they will come to you straight away. But if I asked you to name people who have influence then I suspect you would need more time to think about it and the list would end up being longer - that, for me, is the difference between clout and influence.
Clout hits you in the gut. It’s hard to define but when it’s there, you can’t deny it. Someone either has it, or they haven't.
Influence is more fluid. Most people have some, although you can’t always be sure. You need to weigh up how much power they have and how they exert it.
One of the great privileges of my job is that I get to meet powerful and undoubtedly influential most days. They are the business, political and cultural leaders of our time and the commentators who make sense of the world we live in. I don’t usually spend a lot of time analyzing them in any detail but I do know when I’ve met someone with clout because they stick in my mind. Steve Jobs, The Queen, the rapper Stormzy - they are all people I remember meeting. I remember what they said, what the weather was like and, crucially, how they made me feel. What’s interesting is that you can’t categorize people with clout in to any particular social group or personality type. They don’t have to share the same background or upbringing either, but they picked up their clout somewhere along the way and that's why I think it's something that can be learned.
The reason clout is hard to define is because we react instinctively to it. You don't need to think about it. It is about influence but it’s also about the power of attraction and that’s what makes it distinct and particularly potent.
We often talk about charisma and perhaps some people are born with that but you’ve got to know how to use that for a start and I think you can develop your own magnetism anyway simply by showing a passion for something that you genuinely care about.
Perhaps then it’s better to think of charisma as infectious enthusiasm. Steve Jobs is a case in point. He dedicated his professional life to what he called the ‘information revolution’ and he was so convinced by it, he convinced everyone around him too. If you can dedicate yourself to a cause like that then you’re on your way to building your clout.
Clout is the new influence because we’re living in a particularly emotionally-driven era. You see it in our politics, you see in in our media. We're bombarded with messages every minute of the day and we’re forced to rely on our instincts to filter out what we need to hear from what we don't. As a result we gravitate towards what feels most honest and true. It's a habit that anyone brought up in the digital age has had to pick up.
When I finally revealed the title of my book shortly before publication, I was surprised how many millennials picked up on it. I was told, I was 'on point.' It turns out, clout was already a thing for them. A ‘clout chaser’ is now part of their slang, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, as 'a person that only hangs with certain people or starts beef with people to gain popularity. “Don't mess with him, he a clout chaser." That entry was made a few months after I started writing so I was more ‘on point’ than I could have imagined but the helpful thing about that was that it reassured me I was on to something with the book and this blog.
To stand out these days then is to have clout. Influence on it's own isn't going to cut it. Knowing how to attract an audience is as important as knowing how to convince them when you get in front of them.