What is the API Model?

December 15, 2016
Editor @CforST

When you’re leading a change process, or just trying to make something happen, if you’re not backed by the automatic power of influence that often comes from having a large budget or an important title, you are left depending on your sheer ability to convince others to follow. How can you improve your chances of success?

Getting to know the three concepts of the API method is a good start.

The API Method, developed by Peter Hawkins, helps professionals build trust and influence in a change process through the development of three core leadership qualities—Authority, Presence, and Impact. Here is a brief introduction:

What and who you know; your experience and achievements 
Authority is an essential attribute of a Change Agent, particularly when interacting with stakeholders. Tapping into ones strengths, depth of knowledge, and experiences builds a sense of self-esteem which others will perceive as authority.

Relating well to others; Being fully attentive and reading the moment
Presence is the ability to read the moment and build strong relationships with all stakeholders involved in the change process. Every sustainability change process is full of obstacles, resistance, and unexpected moments. Presence is the key capability one needs to come up with strong, effective interventions on the spot.

Transforming agendas and mindsets; creating an emotional shift
Impact is the measure of the difference between what a Change Agent says and suggests, and what is actually accepted and followed by other people. Many people have deep knowledge or a burning passion for an issue, but too few have (or work consciously to develop) the trust of others—the very element that transforms them into leaders or advisors who can really make change happen.

So, how do you use the API method?
You can begin by using it as a means for self-evaluation. For each quality ask yourself:

1. How would I rate myself for this quality on a scale from 0 to 10?

2. What am I actually doing to demonstrate this quality?

3. Is this quality something I should work on, or am I content with it?

By completing this mini self assessment, hopefully you will gain a little more clarity about your strengths and learning areas when it comes to being a leader.

This was just a short introduction to the API Model. For an in depth discussion of the model and an extended self-evaluation exercise, along with other strategies for becoming an effective leader of change, we recommend the book Parachuting Cats into Borneo—and Other Lessons from the Change Cafe by Center for Sustainability Transformation founders Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson.