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How To

Influence in Leadership: How to be an Influential Leader

Andrew Langat
October 28, 2021
An influential leader standing and talking to her employee while he is sitting down in a good mood.
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Influence in leadership is important to achieve specific goals and objectives. In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell states that Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. 

Given the importance of influence in leadership, this skill should be at the core of any mentoring, executive coaching, or leadership coaching you choose to participate in.

Influence should, however, not be confused with power, manipulation, or control. 

Authentic influence in leadership is based on the tried and tested approach of determining what motivates team members. 

With this data, a leader can then use various methods to improve team member commitment, performance, and bring about positive change within an organization.

An influential leader roaming around in the office while talking to her employees.

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How Influential Leaders Boost Performance

Influence in leadership might sound obvious and almost cliché, but the impact of influential leadership cannot be overstated.

It would be impossible to list all the advantages of influence in leadership; however, here are five examples of how influential leadership can boost performance within an organization or company.

1. They Magnify the Potential of Others

A common criticism of great leaders is that they never actually do anything.

For instance, titans of industry such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller shaped the steel, railroad, and oil industry as we know it today, yet they barely ever went down mine shafts, visited oil fields, or laid rail tracks. These great leaders and others that came after them can spot the potential of others and magnify said potential.

The ability to magnify the potential of others is often overlooked, but it is one of the critical pillars of outstanding leadership. 

A good leader doesn’t need to micromanage others; instead, one should find employees with the right potential and give them the right tools and resources. This process will extract the maximum out of employees and thus, boost performance in all areas. 

  1. Influential Leaders Believe in their People

A leader should believe in their people because the success of a company or organization relies on many.

To put it simply, a leader becomes successful through the toil of others.

A case in point is the fast-food industry. Companies such as McDonald’s, Popeye’s, and others rely on an army of workers to cook, clean, interact with customers, and perform several other crucial activities related to their business.  These companies need to believe in their employees to deliver the best value to customers and achieve long-term success.

Influential leadership believing in their people works well for the fast-food industry, but the lessons apply to other industries as well.

Believing in your people results in better performance, and as a bonus, it often means that leaders have less work which lets them focus on other big-picture tasks.

  1. They Serve Others Before Themselves

Influential leadership is often unconventional and goes against what we expect from leaders. Such leaders typically invert the traditional hierarchy of leadership. In practical terms, influential leaders serve the team rather than the team helping the leader.

It might seem counterintuitive but, this approach has been proven to increase employee commitment and boost teamwork.

  1. Influential Leaders Earn the Trust of Others Quicker

Leading a team without earning their trust is impossible in most cases. Trust between leadership and employees is vital during times of turbulence, leadership transitions, and when taking on new employees.

A leader’s ability to build trust is directly linked to performance. The faster a leader can build trust; the better an organization will perform.

  1. Influential Leaders Always Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Big picture goals and objectives are critical to the future of an organization. Some leaders can get bogged down by everyday occurrences and forget about the big-picture items.

This is where the importance of influential leaders comes through. They keep their eye on big picture items, which is excellent for employee confidence and motivation, public approval, media image, and investor confidence.

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How to Become an Influential Leader

There’s no switch one can flip to become an influential leader. The leadership world is fast-paced, so there are no quick fixes to boost one’s influence.  

Despite this, a leader can boost their influence through mentoring, leadership coaching, or executive coaching.

Here are some paths one can follow to become a more influential leader.

  1. Be Accessible and Build Connections

Influential leadership is not a solo act; you need to involve others, seek new perspectives, and explain how decisions will affect all team members.

All this means that a leader has to be accessible and proactively seek the input and support of team members.

Accessibility can make leadership more accountable to the people they manage. In addition to accountability, accessibility and networking will build trust and improve problem-solving within the team. 

  1. Practice Your Communication Skills

Every leader’s communication ability is constantly accessed by those they seek to influence and manage. Verbal and non-verbal communication skills play a massive part in how a leader connects with employees.

With this in mind, a leader should communicate clearly and share important information throughout the organization.

Some essential communication skills for a leader could include the following:

  • Speaking succinctly
  • Pausing between transitions
  • Eliminating non-words when speaking
  • Allowing listeners time to process what is being said
  • Avoid rambling
  • Delivering a credible message
  1. Be Intentional

Acting intentionally is an elusive concept in leadership, but it is a powerful tool used by influential leaders across several industries.

Having clear intentions before embarking on a task helps you guide your actions and keep you on the path to achieving your goals and objectives.

Intentionality builds personal growth within the organization and boosts mindfulness among employees.

  1. Build and Maintain Trust

Trust is essential in most areas of life, and leadership is no different. To build influence, a leader must build trust.

Employee-leadership relationships built on trust will inspire and motivate employees. When employees trust their leader, they will have confidence in their decisions.

To build trust, a leader must align their words with their actions. A disconnect between the two will lead to disengagement and a lack of commitment within the company.

  1. Practice Strategic Foresight

Strategic foresight in leadership lets a leader adapt to emerging themes, issues, and patterns. It is a subtle leadership competence that will influence others. Predicting the future is not possible in most instances; however, a detailed plan on how to visualize future events will boost a leader’s influence.

A leader can exercise strategic foresight by visualizing where the world is today, outlining possible future events, and establishing a plan that will dictate future paths once subsequent events unfold.  

  1. Be Open to Being Influenced

It might seem counterintuitive at first, but influential leadership is reciprocal. Being open to being influenced is one of the quickest ways to build your influence.

Being open to influence means listening to your employees’ ideas and considering alternative strategies besides your own.

Openness to being influenced builds respect and trust with employees, which in turn builds up a leader’s influence.  

  1. Practice Accountability

To become influential, a leader must have the commitment of their team members.  However, before expecting the total commitment of others, a leader must, first, be accountable to themselves

A leader must be accountable for their vision, actions, and results.

Accountability builds trust and boosts a leader’s influence in the long term. 

  1. Show Empathy When Listening

Empathy is a crucial communication skill for influential leaders. One should know when to speak and when to provide a sympathetic ear.

To listen empathetically, a leader has to do the following:

  • Provide undivided attention
  • Listen to both facts and feelings
  • Be patient and acknowledge that disclosing experiences can be difficult
  • Ask for feedback without interjecting
  • Avoid judgments
  1. Demonstrate Vulnerability

Vulnerability is one of the keys to influential leadership as it creates a foundation for open and non-judgmental communication between team members.

Leaders with the ability to demonstrate vulnerability without oversharing tend to build stronger relationships with team members.

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Highrise Will Show You How

Part of leadership entails delegation and supervision of your team. These delegations may not always be met with enthusiasm or dedication. In the absence of proper influence tactics to deploy, it becomes an uphill task to get consistent results. If this describes you, or you want to better influence, get in touch with us today for tailor-made leadership coaching. Highrise is specifically built for you.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.