Influence is the “capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something”. It is also “the power to have an important effect on someone or something”. Simply put, it is the power to make other people agree with your opinion or do what you want to achieve a desired result.
Firstly, it is important to note that no one is born with influence. Every influential person today at some point in their lives realised that they needed to grow their effect on others, and the level of control the had over certain outcomes in their lives.
You can develop your influence as you do other skills, such as positively handling criticism, learning to use a new tool, or becoming proficient at playing a musical instrument.
Anyone who has been in any leadership position or aspires to lead at some point must have heard the classic John Maxwell quote: “Leadership is influence”. John Maxwell expressed leadership in the simplest term possible. Every leader who desires to leave a lasting positive impact needs influence and must learn how to develop his influence to improve his leadership.
Powerful and productive leaders in our society have an advantage over other leaders in that they understand that influence is power, and mastery of it is key to their growth as a leader. The methods used by these leaders are not impossible to master; just like exercising, anyone can learn these methods and notice that they will get better with time.
There are many ways to develop your influence. Here are three simple and effective ones:
This is very important for any leader. If you don’t know the specific result you want to achieve or the exact effect you want to have, it is going to be difficult to influence it.
This is usually the most overlooked step in growing real influence. The truth is, none of us would like to follow or rely on a tentative person. Having a clear perspective helps build trust and understanding.
Influence usually goes hand in hand with understanding. To persuade a person or a group of people to take a particular course of action, you need to have an understanding of what exactly needs to be done, who will do it, and the expected outcome of that undertaking.
Clarity involves taking time to reach an understanding about what is important to each of the parties involved. Where there is clarity of ideas, instructions, expectations, standards, or responsibilities – a smooth working relationship can be built and a leader’s influence increased.
An influential leader understands that success or failure of his/her team or subordinates is not about the much talked of traits such as charisma, or vision, rather it is more about whether they clearly understand what is expected and behave in a manner that will achieve the desired results. Influence is sometimes more powerful than money because there are times a leader can without money affect (influence) the outcome of a situation to suit him/her. To achieve clarity, it is a good idea to write down the current position and what you hope to achieve. To influence people or outcomes, it is imperative to maintain clarity at all times.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE HUMAN
Most leaders wrongly think that as a leader they are not supposed to show any emotions. This notion is usually practiced by those leaders who believe “Leadership is all about power”, and emotions are a sign of weakness and must be avoided. When you fail to show real emotions, then you tend to be seen as manipulative, untrustworthy and sometimes cold. Being open about your emotions increases your likeability and influence. People will perceive you as being real when you admit to weaknesses or flaws because this is part of being human. Acknowledging that you are not perfect but striving for improvement will help members of your team open up to you. This will foster teamwork and build better relations as every member knows you are counting on them to do their best.
Being open about your emotions increases your likeability and influence. People will perceive you as being real when you admit to weaknesses or flaws because this is part of being human. Acknowledging that you are not perfect but striving for improvement will help members of your team open up to you. This will foster teamwork and build better relations as every member knows you are counting on them to do their best.
Some leaders are overtaken by the feeling of being under the spotlight so much that they tend to think that people are constantly scrutinising them. This mentality leads to some insensitive behaviours on their part. A leader perceived as being insensitive or cold can never grow his influence.
DEVELOP AND EMBRACE DIVERSITY
After identifying your gaps, find ways to develop in those areas. It might be a workshop, coach or internal role model who is particularly strong in the style you’re trying to develop. For an added bonus, find a learning partner – someone with whom you can role-play to gain confidence.
Every leader has a distinct natural leadership style. As a leader, you should be able to understand your natural leadership style and the appropriate styles to influence the people around you. You must also be able to determine where you are on a firm standing, and where it is necessary to change and use a different approach to be effective. After identifying your personal flaws, it is imperative to find ways to develop these areas. You might decide to attend a seminar, workshop, or employ the services of a coach. You might consider asking the help of a team member or internal model who is strong in the area you want to develop. Part of development is to be critical of yourself but not to the point of regression. Being your own critic helps a leader to stay proactive.
Every leader who wants to grow their influence must be able to see the potential in new connections, collective intelligence and be ready and willing to embrace such. By respecting and accepting the different abilities of others, accepting the value in corporate and entrepreneurial viewpoints and by seeing the value in cross-sector relationships; influential leaders know that leading with people is always better because different inputs broaden a leader’s view. By embracing diversity, a leader can actually steer towards mutual success for his team and this is sure to grow influence.
If you practice clarity, publicly being your real self by being sensitive and relatable, and constant development as well as embracing diversity your influence is sure to grow as people around you will learn to rely on your clear counsel.