Leading by Influence

To be truly effective, leaders must master the ability to influence others. “Leadership is INFLUENCE. If people can increase their influence with others, they CAN lead more effectively,” says John C. Maxwell, American author, speaker, and pastor who promotes quality leadership in his published works.

Effective leaders don’t just command; they inspire, persuade, and encourage. Leaders have the knowledge and skills to lead a team or group of individuals towards a common goal, and lay out an executive plan to achieve results.

5 Key Skills Needed to Positively Influence Others

1. Establish credibility

Leaders begin to build trust by establishing their credibility. To establish one’s credibility, they need to implement 4 fundamental elements: integrity, intent, capability and results. Integrity is being honest and having follow through; it’s “walking the talk”. Intent involves ensuring that your motives are clearly understood. Capabilities are the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your job well. Results are what you have accomplished; it is the ability to get done what you say you will do. When it comes to knowing how credible you are as a leader, ask yourself these two questions: 1) Do I trust myself? and 2) Am I someone others can trust? By establishing credibility we begin to establish trust, which is an essential step in gaining influence with others.

2. Engage others and build a connection

Leadership is not a solo act. If you want to influence others, they have to be involved. Seek input on important decisions that will affect the team members individually or as a whole. Involve others early on when proposing or implementing changes within the organization. Seek to understand the needs, motivations, and values of others. By showing a sincere commitment to what matters to someone else you’ll begin to build greater influence with them as they realize your actions include a genuine concern and appreciation for their interests.

3. Clarify expectations and practice accountability

To get great results, leaders must be able to enlist, persuade, and engage others. However, before expecting commitment, leaders must clearly describe their expectations. Defining the results and clearly communicate them to others can help leaders define accountability. It is critical to hold yourself and others accountable to the expectations because this directly impacts your ability to positively influence others and help them experience growth and success.

4. Share your passion

Passion is important in that it produces energy; it fuels a fire in others. Passion is not something you can fake. It must be real and authentic. Research has shown that one of the traits people admire most in leaders is their ability to be forward-looking and have a long term vision. Effective leaders are able to communicate that vision and get others excited about supporting it by sharing their enthusiasm.

5. Be open to influence

Influence should be reciprocal. This means demonstrating openness:

  • Be willing to listen to others’ ideas
  • Invite and consider alternative viewpoints
  • Make use of others’ skills and expertise

By displaying openness you’ll begin to build respect and trust with others and that will increase your influence as a leader.

When Influencing Others, Context Matters

Remember, the goal is to influence others, not manipulate them. Effective, ethical leaders use different approaches in different situations, choosing carefully when to influence with appeals to the head, heart, or hands.

Leaders need to understand why they are doing something and be clear about their own values and goals when applying their influence on others. That way, influence establishes from a place of authenticity and has the greatest impact.