Influence is an essential component of leadership. The simple fact is, to be an effective leader, you must be able to inspire and influence people.
John C. Maxwell says that leadership is influence! But what exactly is influence?
One way the dictionary defines influence is:
The capacity or power to be a compelling force on, or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others
But how do you become influential? How do you become a “compelling force” who can produce the desired effects? If you want to lead people, you need to develop both influence and trust. How do you develop this all-important leadership characteristic? Fortunately this is something that can be learned and developed.
Remember, influence can be both positive and negative. Throughout history, there have been leaders who have exerted negative influence. The leaders we admire are the ones who have used their influence in a positive way.
Here are some simple strategies to get you started on developing the right kind of influence:
Lead by Example
The best way to influence someone is by your own behavior. Be someone who others want to model. If you want to influence someone to be positive and perform well, you must be an example of the behavior you expect. Be the leader who leads by example, and the person that people want to imitate and follow. Leaders are not “born”, they are “grown” and developing influence is just one of the important leadership qualities you will need.
Be authoritative, not an authoritarian. What does it mean to be authoritative? Simply put, this means that you act and communicate with confidence, authenticity and respect. You do not use your authority to get people to do what you want them to do, rather you encourage, motivate and inspire them to act or behave in a certain way.
Be wise with your words. When you are confident, uplifting, encouraging, and genuine, people are likely to listen, consider, and do what you say or ask. This is influence. But if you are condescending or condemning in your speech, people will be much more likely to be resistant, dig in their heels, even sabotage your plans and avoid you. They will view you as haughty, arrogant and egotistical. This is not the kind of influence you want.
When you communicate, think about your tone, the words you use, and your attitude.Think about how these words will be heard and understood.Be thoughtful!Think, “if I was hearing or reading these words, would they influence me in a positive or negative way?”
Be a good listener. An important component of communication is listening. Really listening to the thoughts and concerns of others is a sure way to gain their trust. When people feel you are genuinely listening to them, they feel close to, and comfortable with you. That translates into trust, and they will hold your opinion in high regard.
Give Positive Feedback and Reinforcement
People instinctively trust those who provide positive feedback. Ensure your feedback is sincere, otherwise the recipient will sense your insincerity, and respond negatively. Find something good to say, that you believe is true. Positive feedback can be a strong motivator.
Honesty goes a long way towards earning the trust of others. People may sometimes not like what you've said, but they'll likely respect that you're being honest and straightforward. This will also help them feel comfortable about being honest with you. And be honest about yourself. Take responsibility for your mistakes.
Show Kindness and Genuine Concern
Kindness and concern helps gain the trust of others. When you show someone you're genuinely concerned about their well-being, they instantly feel close to you, and will approach you for help or advice. In addition, they'll likely value and trust what you say, as they know you have their best interests at heart.
We will be continuing our conversation on influence and trust and the important part they play in leadership, in our next blog post. Be sure to come back and join in the discussion.