Clout: It’s more than social media influence, it’s your responsibility.

The inspiration for this article is from a @DEADLINE article by @DeadlineMike on, “Dwayne Johnson Surpasses 200 Million Instagram Followers, Most By Any American Man.”

Being a big Rock fan, I’ve enjoyed his authenticity when it comes to spreading kindness and compassion. For a celebrity, it’s typically important to remain politically neutral, but in recent years he’s been using his clout to push that needle.

“While some in Hollywood like George Clooney are willing to get into any scrap where he feels he can use his influence to confront a bully or shine a light on an injustice, it seems like Johnson is evolving in that direction.”

And the more I thought about this concept of Clout, what it is and isn’t, what do readers of Venture Out takeaway to improve their life and gain more success, it occurred to me: Clout exists by itself.

My point is Clout doesn’t care if you believe in it, agree with it, or choose to ignore it. Clout exists and it’s affecting your station in life. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to address it.

“You don’t have to play the game of clout, but you need to be aware of it.” — Johnny. That’s right, I just quoted myself. Why not.

If you don’t like that one, here’s another one:

“No one genuinely goes around talking about their clout, but it’s also undeniable that things like white sunglasses, Supreme hoodies, Off-White sneakers, etc. are things that will get a person a hell of a lot of likes on Instagram.” [9]

The New Basics of Clout

What’s the difference between a hero and villain? If it’s a good movie, the only difference is what actions they think will change the world for the better.

Example: Marvel’s Black Panther movie stars Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther versus Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Don’t let that Killmonger name fool you, it was trending “Killmonger Was Right” for a reason. Both Black Panther and Killmonger agreed there is racial disparity around the world and something has to be done. It was the strategic action that Killmonger decided on that clearly put him in the villain category.

So, when it comes to exercising clout, the same principle applies.

The “traditional meaning to us is ‘power and influence,’” @ryanstaake, owner of Pomp & Clout creative studio, says, “but in modern times it’s evolved into ‘digital cultural currency.’” [1]

“Clout is sort of like a millennial version of ‘popularity + notoriety.’ It’s like being popular and cool, all at once. People can have clout, but items (say, sunglasses) can give one clout, too.” — Jake Woolf, GQ writer [9]

But clout wasn’t always defined by social media influence.

“Clout had particular significance in Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s. In a 1973 column, “What Clout Is and Isn’t,” Mike Royko gave examples of the word in use, including:

“Nah, I don’t need a building permit — I got clout in City Hall.”

“Hey, Charlie, I see you made foreman. Who’s clouting for you?”

“Ever since my clout died, they’ve been making me work a full eight hours. I’ve never worked an eight-hour week before.”

In other words, clout used to be described to circumvent the law, not to enforce it. It is used to bend rules, not follow them.” [2]

I recall sitting in a small meeting with just 2 others. I pitched my idea to the decision-maker and it was promptly dismissed. A few minutes later, my colleague pitched the SAME IDEA and it was readily accepted! What the?!

I think we can all relate to a situation when we weren’t being heard. And the kick in the shins is when we observe others are being listened to, and we have to ask ourselves, “what am I not doing that they are doing?”

“Herminia’s research shows that when people acquire… gravitas or how to influence without authority, they do it by observing how successful people do it and then emulating them. They also ask two important questions:

“Would what that person is doing work for me?”

“Do I want to be like them?”

When the answer to either of those questions is “Maybe not,” the natural role-modeling process falls apart, and people face authenticity dilemmas.” [3]

Makes sense. Why would we choose to emulate someone who’s not our style or that we view as misusing their clout. If we take that one step further, the lightbulb in your head should flicker on to understand that this is why it’s important for diversity and equal representation. If you’re a minority, look up to find someone to learn from, but don’t see anyone that fits your behavioral and personality style, that’s a growth dead-end.

5 Ways to Use Your Clout

Whether you want to grow your clout or use your clout better, here are 5 ways to do exactly that:

  1. Sponsor someone. “Mentors share their knowledge, perspective, and experience, whereas sponsors wield their power on behalf of their protégés.” [3]
  2. Never oversell. This means don’t brag. Just because you have access to inside knowledge or the power to dole out work, don’t abuse it. Keep the gossip to yourself and be a team player, even if you’re the boss. [4]
  3. Be original. Don’t take the same opinion as the most influential person in the room just to ride their coattails. Instead, grow your own original ideas, challenge theirs, and sharpen your insights.
  4. Plot your next (growth) move. With lots of clout comes complacency. So, push yourself into areas that you’re not comfortable with, in order to culture that growth mindset and get exposed to new ideas, which in turn leads to greater innovation.
  5. New Clout Discovered! Read on…

Have you been following Jacinda Arden, New Zealand Prime Minister? During this global pandemic, Arden has been able to squash the two waves her country faces to zero cases. Imagine that — being able to go out to your coffee shop, attend concerts, and (gasp) eat indoors without fear!

“Rising to power on a tide of “Jacindamania,” at 38, she is the youngest female leader in the world and New Zealand’s youngest PM in 150 years. She was elected to a second term in a landslide in October 2020. Ardern set new norms as a government leader when she gave birth, took six weeks maternity leave and shared that her partner will be a stay-at-home dad.”

No wonder she’s #32 on Forbes’ list of most powerful women in the world.

And when it comes to her clout, she’s practicing it in a bold, new way.

Consider this: “Typically, an executive winds up with a power deficit because he or she lacks one or more of the following power sources: legitimacy, critical resources or networks. The high level of interaction between these three sources of power means that a shortage in one can easily produce shortages in the other two. The authors argue that, generally, executives who have a power deficit can solve the problem in one of two ways: they must either play the game more effectively or change the game by, for instance, reshaping their role in the organization.”

Arden practiced clout differently when she, “promises an “empathetic” government.”

5. I’m recommending if you want to grow your clout power (lol, that sounds like a video game character leveling up!), practice more empathy.

“For Ardern she overtly promotes kindness as a key value meaning she is relationship-oriented, which is a common feature of women’s leadership,” Wilson says.

Call it emotional intelligence or empathy or just being able to read a poker table, you have to give empathy out in spades. In doing so, you build a base of supporters who will also be your brand ambassadors.

Final Thought on Clout

Use your clout, for the right reasons. Years ago, I had an employee, who was vying for a promotion, come talk to me. He told me he knows how the “game” is played and asked if I had his back. I told him I run a fair interview and selection panel, no more no less, and you can trust that. On another occasion, I took the initiative to start a new speaking event modeled after TED Talks. In setting it up, I enlisted a few folks I knew who could benefit from the greater exposure. Can you spot the difference?

So, off you go and grow your Clout. Early on in my career, I refused to believe in the power of sponsorship and instead wanted to earn my own way. I refused to play politics only to witness politics when I finally got into “the room where it happens.” Grow and use your Clout by sponsoring others, diversifying your interests, and most all, with empathy for others.

Ready To Level-Up?

If you want to have a better chance of achieving your goals, then check out my Epic Life Planning with a free downloadable tool. No catch, no gimmicks, just a step-by-step guide to help you obtain your unobtainium.


  1. Why Kids Online Are Chasing ‘Clout’: How did a word once reserved for union bosses get co-opted by anybody with a viral tweet? By Kaitlyn Tiffany
  2. What ‘Clout’ Is and Isn’t by Mike Royko
  3. Want More Diverse Senior Leadership? Sponsor Junior Talent. by Herminia Ibarra and Nana von Bernuth
  4. Being the Boss’s Favorite Is Great, Until It’s Not by Liz Kislik
  5. How to Overcome a Power Deficit by Jean-Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet
  6. Dwayne Johnson Surpasses 200 Million Instagram Followers, Most By Any American Man by Mike Fleming Jr
  7. New Zealand’s Debates Show What Changes When Two Women Lead by Stéphanie Fillion
  8. Forbes Most Powerful Women #69 Rihanna, Musician
  9. What Is Clout? An Explainer for Olds by Chris Gayomali

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: