How leaders become highly influential

Horseshoe magnet

The topic of influence and in particular how to be more influential is a hot one right now.  It is on the minds of many of my clients.  “How can I influence others without positional power?”  “How can I get others to do what I need them to do?”  George Lucas figured this out by introducing the Jedi mind trick in Star Wars, but what about the rest of us?

The growing need for influence

The flattening of corporate organizations is one reason increasing the need for more influence.  Without the power based hierarchies of the past, how do we get other people to do what we need them to do?  The Merriam-Webster definition of influence speaks to this beautifully.  Their definition is ‘the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.’

The definition aligns to leadership and why influence is so important.  My preferred definition of leadership is ‘declaring a future that others commit to achieve’.  It doesn’t saying declaring a future and telling others to achieve it.  The leader’s role is to inspire others to generate the commitment to want to achieve that future.  The act of inspiring others is a type of influencing.  A successful leader must be able to influence those around them.

How to increase our influence?

We have established what influence is and why it is so important to leadership.  The next question is how do we do it?  Larry Shoop and I have been considering this question.  Influence is driven by many factors.

As you can see in the graphic , we have classified the factors into two groups:  environment and ability.  The environment describes the factors that surround us.  They can help or hinder our level of influence.  A common one is position.  If we have a high level of positional power eg as the CEO, our level of influence is high.  But that doesn’t tell the full story.  If that CEO’s ability to communicate is poor.  They dislike negotiation and they don’t build trusting relationships, it limits their influence.

Increasing our ability to influence

Environmental factors are difficult to change, especially in the short term.  In fact some are unchangeable.  In contrast, we can all work on and improve our ability to influence.  If we want to become a highly effective leader, we have to roll up our sleeves.

I will examine several of these abilities in upcoming articles.  For now, you can gain a head start by downloading the Influence Planning Guide below.  We will dive further into this topic in my next post.