Imagine a scenario in which a team is struggling with a project because the information they need to complete it is not coming in as quickly as they expected. As they debate whether (and how) to approach the client about moving up the deadline, some team members favor handing an incomplete document over to the client. The team leader, however, is certain that the best course of action is to wait just a few more days for all the data to be available so the team can present the client with a complete deliverable. They keep trying to convince the rest of the team to extend the deadline but don’t get any support for this position. In the end, the deadline is not moved forward, and the client is extremely upset with what the team presents. If only the leader had been able to influence the rest of the team to make a different decision.
The topic of influence often comes up in leadership programs and coaching. Although leaders may be strong technicians and extremely capable of carrying out their job responsibilities, they can also feel that they are not as influential as they would like. The inability to persuade others to support their ideas and suggestions can be frustrating and can throw off any leader’s confidence level. By keeping six key strategies in mind, however, leaders can increase their influence.
Focus on Relationship Building
Every influential leader understands that being able to convince team members or bosses to embrace their ideas begins with cultivating meaningful and trusting relationships. A leader who doesn’t show care and concern for their team cannot expect to persuade that team to sign on to their strategies. Additionally, effective leaders also network widely and cultivate relationships with people from different teams and areas.
Influential leaders demonstrate their credibility by being dependable and following through with what they say they will do. Credible leaders listen to their team members to understand what they are really saying, and they never use “bait and switch” tactics to achieve their own goals. They are also trustworthy, so others can count on them to always be honest and tell the truth—even when it’s hard to hear.
Craft a Clear and Compelling Message
Influential leaders use descriptive language to express themselves with both clarity and energy. By presenting a compelling message that makes the case for why a certain choice is being suggested, they can persuade others to support their decision—and share their excitement.
Be Inclusive and Approachable
Influential leaders reach out to include input from many different demographic groups and thought leaders. When a discussion or a project includes many different (and sometimes opposing) perspectives and opinions, leading with openness and inclusivity can help prevent it from going awry. Influential leaders promote an open dialogue by welcoming feedback, even if it is critical. They also value their team members and treat them with respect, and they cultivate environments in which everyone feels safe to speak up.
Influential leaders inspire others by presenting an exciting vision that team members and bosses want to support. These leaders understand what’s important to others, including their pain points and what information they need to choose their courses of action. An upbeat, positive disposition and a well-thought-out plan provide the foundation for an inspirational approach.
Value Appreciation and Recognition
Lastly, influential leaders are grateful for all of their colleagues’ hard work and input. They publicly demonstrate how much they appreciate others’ dedication, and they make sure people get credit for their contributions. (For example, they might offer to put something in writing in someone’s file for an accomplishment that was difficult to attain.) Leaders who become known as advocates for others will see their influence grow.
Being a leader doesn’t mean sitting in a position of authority and telling other people what to do. Rather, being a leader means earning a position of influence through persuasion, appreciation, and communication. Leaders who actively work to develop their skills in these areas will increase their influence—and their effectiveness.