Influence [in-floo-uhns] the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
It’s what strong leaders want. Not salary or titles or promotions. Those benefits usually come with the package, but they’re not the driving force. Strong leaders want to make an impact. They want the opportunity to shape the culture and make major organizational decisions. They want to be in a position to positively affect people. They want to make a difference. All those capabilities come from having influence.
If you want to be a strong and effective leader, here are three easy ways to gain more influence:
#1 – Listen and Execute – It’s become a rare trait: the ability to listen. But it is your most valuable tool. And it is vital to earning a position of influence. Always keep your ears and eyes open. Listen when organizational leaders talk in large meetings, conference calls, etc. Really think about what they are saying.
Any one can point out a problem; a person of influence provides a solution. Use your listening skills to identify the challenges facing the organization. Then be proactive. Conduct research and employ creative thinking to find ways to overcome those challenges.
#2 – Respect and Honor – While power can be assumed, influence must be earned. Organizations are made up of hierarchies. That means in most cases you are working for another individual. Organizationally they have “power” over you. Whether you respect the person or not, swallow the “pride pill” and honor their authority.
Influence and respect are intertwined. The more people respect you, the more they will respect your opinions and ideas. And that makes it more likely they will turn your opinions and ideas into action. That’s influence. Work to earn respect and your influence will grow.
#3 – Challenge and Encourage – Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Never cower away from challenging status quo. Leaders will appreciate your challenge if it’s done thoughtfully and respectfully. Always keep the golden rule of challenging people in mind: “Celebrate publicly, challenge privately”.
Strong leaders influence through encouragement. Just as you should not be afraid to challenge, you should not be afraid to be challenged. In fact, you should encourage everyone around you – especially those under you – to speak their minds. Influence comes not only from being confident in your own ideas but being open to the ideas of others.
The ability to bring about change and make a difference in your organization begins with gaining influence. But influence doesn’t come overnight. It’s the result of working hard, earning trust and thinking (and acting) strategically.