I am amazed by the number of leaders who seem to lead only in title. Many leaders assume that once they get to a certain level or receive a certain title people will respect and listen to them… in other words, they will have influence. Leadership and influence are not interchangeable. It would be nice if it were that easy; unfortunately it is not. So what is this powerful word, “influence”? It is something you cannot buy, and is not just given due to position or title.
By definition, influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. Having the ability to affect a person’s character and behavior is a tremendous responsibility, and it is one that leaders should give deep consideration. If you are in a leadership position, I guarantee that people are watching you. That does not necessarily mean that you are influencing them (although I have seen leaders who influence to the negative, but that is a topic for another blog).
So how does a leader gain or earn influence? Entire books have been written on this subject. For purposes of this short blog, I’ll try to offer a few helpful suggestions.
MSBCoach recently hosted a webinar where our guest speaker was Mark Deutsch, sales & marketing expert and best-selling author. The title of the webinar was “Leadership and The Psychology of Influence.” You can view this webinar at: Leadership and the Psychology of Influence. Mark addressed several very crucial aspects of influence; however, I wanted to particularly focus on one of those areas in this blog, and that is how we gain influence.
Some people are undoubtedly more easily influenced than others; however, there are some key ways we gain influence with anyone (including our family, friends, those we lead, peers and our leaders). Most leaders are busy trying to influence from the brain. In other words, they want to impress people with what they know. Although the brain is a very important part of influence, the truth is that the brain validates what the heart believes. As a leader, one way you can gain more influence is to tap into the “heart” of those you want to affect. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How well do you know the people you want to influence? We are most influenced by people who know, understand and respect us.
- Are you committed to the people you want to influence? If so, how do you show this?
- Are the people you want to influence committed to you? If not, why? What can you do to gain their commitment? As Steven Covey says, “Seek to understand before being understood”.
- Do the people you want to influence like you? People want to be lead by people they like. This does not mean you are their “best buddy”, but it does mean you are a connected, concerned leader – both to the vision of the team you lead and to the people individually.
- Are you strong, focused and a good example to those you want to influence?
If you take the time to go though these questions personally and with those you are striving to influence, you will be able to come up with an action plan to be more influential. Once you create that action plan, share it with someone who can hold you accountable. Accountability is an important aspect of being successful in any endeavor. Being an influential leader is a vital role to fill and we need more influential leaders.