Joel Garfinkle is a new friend in the professional development profession. I first became familiar with his work when I received and endorsed his latest book Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Joel is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies. You can view his books and FREE articles at his Executive Leadership website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”:
Why is influence important in leadership? Before learning how a good leader armed with influence can create massive change in an organization, let’s take a closer look at what influence really is. The term influence is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force.” The definition suggests that the true meaning of influence is to get people to take action without any sort of force or exertion.
If you as a leader practice influence—staying true to its core meaning—you can really make a difference. Influence is an indispensable leadership quality that gives you the ability to sway just one individual or a large crowd, take initiative to undertake a massive project, make crucial decisions and create monumental change in your organization. Influential leaders do what others believe to be important.
Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California, talks about the power of influence saying that, ‘‘the basis of leadership is the capacity of the leader to change the mindset…of another person.’’
So how can you actually do that? How can you become a leader of influence?
First, understand this: Influence is NOT reserved for managers, presidents, CEOs, and others with a title.
No matter where you are in your organization right now, YOU have the power to influence change. Think back to a time when you voiced your opinion, which led to altering or changing a situation. That’s influence. If you’ve had a hand in influencing the outcome of something by improving it or have made an important decision that had impact, you’ve practiced influence.
Here are 5 key questions you can ask yourself to determine and gauge how influential you are in your company:
- Have you received credit from your seniors or upper management on an idea you put forth that was well received and acted upon?
- Do your employees trust your judgement and promptly carry out any requests and tasks you assign them?
- Can you convince clients to buy into your projects and successfully close the deal?
- Do your colleagues respect your decisions and agree to come on board with your ideas?
- Do you often take the team lead position and pilot projects and direct tasks?
If you answered yes to most of the above questions then you carry some weight in your organization and have the ability to influence people. If you answered no to most of the above questions, you have some work to do BUT with keen determination and a few tips you’ll be on your way to becoming more influential.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Leaders are made, not born?” The same goes for influence. Influence is a learned art and you too can learn how to do it right. Next time you’re in a board meeting, take the initiative to take the lead. Don’t be afraid to put forth some of your ideas, and pay close attention to how your ideas are received. You might be pleasantly surprised. The more people actually start listening to what you have to say, the more confident you’ll become.
Once you get to a position where you know you have the power to influence people, realize that the key to influential leadership is to bring your ideas, skills and voice into your organization without stepping over others. Be fair and honest and don’t undermine, intimidate, and take credit for others’ success. These are certainly NOT the traits of an influential leader.
As you’re climbing the leadership ladder, always remember to ask yourself, “How can I positively influence and support others?” And more importantly, “How can I develop other leaders to improve my company’s bottom line?”
Strive to become an influential leader. I guarantee that you will not only mature both professionally and personally but you develop the executive leadership skills necessary to lead your organization to positive growth and make the most of your inherent potential.