Influence is an extraordinary asset, and it's one of 7 foundational competencies that every leader should master. So, what exactly is it, and how do you develop it?
Firstly, let me dispel the myth that power makes you influential... Anyone can wield power. There are many leaders around the world who are powerful, but lack the respect and trust of those around them. Then there are those people whose opinions and views are so powerful that they can change attitudes and beliefs. That's real power - that's influence!
So what exactly is influence? Simply put, it's the power to cause change without directly forcing it to happen. That change could come in the form of an idea, a behaviour or an opinion.
Influence has numerous advantages, both from a personal and a career perspective. Just imagine how much easier it would be to get your ideas and opinions across during a meeting, if you had a high level of influence? What about rallying the troops around a vision, or working with your peers?
Building influence takes time and effort. Fortunately, there are a handful areas you can focus on that will help you to cultivate this powerful characteristic.
- Open Ears, Eyes & Heart. Your ability to influence is dependent on your ability to understand the opinions and viewpoints of others. This cannot be done without listening! When I say listening, I mean actively listening to what people say, how they say it, and how they feel. Or, as the Chinese character (聽 Ting) suggests; listen with your ears, eyes and heart. You want people to feel that they are being listened to!
- Build a Bridge. The more trusted you are by others, the more open they will be to sharing their views and opinions. The more trusted you are by others, the more open they will be to your ideas and opinions. In order to be trusted by others you must first be willing to put your trust in others. You must be consistent in all your actions, open and honest about your feelings.
- Stay Connected. I'm sure you've heard the saying, 'it's not what you know but who you know'? Well, there is some logic to this point, as your network of influence greatly impacts your perceived level of influence. Don't network for the sake of networking. Make a conscientious effort to connect with people at an emotional level and understand their trials and tribulations.
- Excel @ Everything. Excel at everything you do, and help those around you to excel at everything they do. This is a critical element of building influence, as everybody wants to be with a winner, and everyone wants to be a winner. Invest time into identifying your own performance gaps, and the performance gaps of those around you. Once you have identified the gaps, develop a plan to close them.
- Assert Yourself. There will come a time when you have to get your ideas and opinions heard, and this is where you will need to be more assertive by expressing then with high levels of confidence and authority. Remember, it's not just what you say, it's how you say it. The use of powerful body language will help you to be more assertive.
- An Agile Mind. The ability to think on your feet, to think out of the box, to be decisive and to solve problems quickly are attributes of an agile mind. They are attributes that require high levels of mental stamina. They are infections and help to build influence. Invest time in to developing your brain by reading books, trying your hand at art, or solving crossword puzzles etc.
There you have it, 6 steps to increase your influence. Can you think of any influential leaders who display these characteristics?