Well the answer is yes, though I suggest not enough for what we always need them to do in a planned way. I have written about this before from a slightly different angle though was struck again in a conversation with a client who wanted to create a change strategy based mostly around identifying a range of key influencers and then feeding information through them and wanting them to then infleunce the change process. By influence the change process I am assuming he meant create the action necessary to have the changes implemented by others in the workplace.
On paper and in the cold light of day this looks like a credible theory. In practice it wobbles slightly. Who exactly are the right infleuncers? Will they retain their credibility and influencing power once it becomes known they are working in this way? I suspect not. Also, most true influencers have this power over a discrete set of individuals, most of whom are their peers. In our organisational settings we would thus need to create a multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional team of influencers to reflect these patterns and this is not what I generally come across when organisations talk of influencers. Mostly they refer to senior members of the team who they then label as champions of an idea.
I think opinion leaders do influence. I believe it is important not to confuse our organisational change and development implementation plans with this complex theory which is easier to see as a descriptive peice of research than it is to use as a predictive planning tool.