Insights
March 1, 2023

How to Build Leadership Influence


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If you want to be a leader, influence others. This is a skill that can be learned, and in this article, we share some key steps to developing leadership influence.

One of the hallmarks of great leaders is their ability to influence others. Think Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela or Jesus. The definition of influence is the capacity of a person to produce effects on the actions, behaviours and opinions of others. Simply put, to influence is to change how someone else thinks or behaves. However, the change is made without force, coercion or the use of authority. This is influence leadership.

Influential leaders change how someone else thinks or behaves. However, the change is made without force, coercion or the use of authority.
An influential leader

Often, being a leader means having to make people do things. This is true whether it’s in a home, sports team, religious group or corporation. Leaders set goals and bring change. To be an effective leader, you need your people (whether it’s an individual or a large group) to buy into your vision and work with you toward the objective. The more influence you have, the more you are able to move people. The greatest leaders, like those mentioned above, were so influential that they changed the course of history.

How to Build Influence

Add Value

When you add value to your people and impact their lives in a positive way, most people will reciprocate. This can be as simple as lending a hand to complete a project, providing useful feedback, or looking into training for someone who wants to advance his or her career. But be genuine; don’t go into this expecting something in return. Do it because you want to empower others and build a better team, family or organisation.

Establish credibility

People need to know why they should follow you or listen to you. Show that you have the skills and capabilities to perform well. Show the results of your efforts and your track record. Demonstrate that you are able to solve problems. Continue to gain expertise in your field, then share that knowledge with your team. Self-promotion, done for the right reasons, can be an effective tool. The visibility and opportunity it creates can be beneficial not just for you but for your team or department. 

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Listen well

Listening to others helps you form connections with them. Not only will you receive feedback, thoughts and ideas that will aid you when embarking on a project, but active listening allows you to pick up on the motivations and fears that drive a person. This doesn’t mean you have to be everyone’s friend or therapist. Instead, the key is to gain different perspectives and insights that will help you be a more influential leader.

Listening to others helps you form connections with them. Not only will you receive feedback, thoughts and ideas that will aid you
Listening helps form connections

Clarify expectations

Be very clear about your goals and what you expect from your team members. If you wish to influence people, being able to clearly communicate your goals and vision is essential. Engaging with your team helps to keep them on track, monitor their progress and reduce confusion. Clear communication is particularly important when the project runs into a roadblock or a change of direction is required. 

Build rapport and trust

Take time to get to know your team members. Create an amiable working atmosphere that allows openness and participation so that every member of the team feels involved. Through your actions, demonstrate that you are a leader that they can count on. Find ways to show that you are invested in your people and that you have confidence in their abilities. Let them know that they are respected and appreciated, yet hold them accountable the same way you hold yourself accountable. Be honest.

Collaborate

Practising collaboration is a very effective way to increase your influence and achieve goals. Encourage others to contribute their thoughts and ideas, and show that you value their opinions. When a group solves problems together or puts their heads together for a new and challenging project, each individual feels more invested and committed. Even for a relatively straightforward task like setting the marketing budget for the following year, pull the team together. The group may catch something that an individual might miss. Consider organising a day away from the office to strategise, brainstorm or troubleshoot. With a sense of co-ownership, it can feel especially rewarding when a project is successful.

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Set a good example

A leader should model the behaviour that he or she wants to see in the team. Set targets for yourself and meet them. People are inspired by those with clear goals and know how to get there. Be fair and ethical; if you set high expectations for your people, make sure you set them for yourself. If you want your people to act a certain way, act that way yourself instead of telling them. Inspire your team members and give them something to emulate by walking the talk. 

What Influence is Not

To influence is to persuade or motivate others in a positive way. It is not to be confused with power or control. Neither is it about manipulating others to get your way. Indeed, control and demands are outmoded methods of getting people to do what you want. You may see results in the short term, but over time, resentment, negativity and resistance are the inevitable outcome. 

Influence is also not derived from a position of authority. The old adage that respect has to be earned still holds true. Influence and respect are not automatically conferred with a title or position. A dictator is in a powerful position, but he achieves his objectives through his army and through force. He is certainly not a source of motivation or inspiration for the people he commands.

Influence is also not derived from authority
Influence is not authority

Neither is leadership influence based on knowledge or intelligence. While knowledge and information are important in any field, you might notice that being the cleverest person in the room or the one with the most postgraduate degrees does not make that person a great leader. 

Influence, the measure of leadership

Leadership is about people. You cannot be a leader if there is no one to lead. And to rally people around you, to earn their trust, to move them to do great things, you have to be able to influence them. Increase your leadership influence and you will be able to create change in your organisation, launch new initiatives and weather challenging periods.

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If you wish to build influence leadership or learn to influence people, executive coaching can set you on the right path. It can help you develop your leadership style while enhancing skills such as influence, communication and creativity. If you’re ready to create change and gain influence, get in touch with us.

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