LEADERSHIP REQUIRES INFLUENCE
If you want to lead another person, you need influence. But what is influence, really? And how can you develop it? Influence is creating a desire in another person to act.
There was a time when people relied less on influence and more on position or title to lead others. That’s no surprise, since at one time hereditary leadership positions were handed down from one generation to another. Princes became kings, and their decisions were law—for good or for bad.
Those days are gone. And we are better for it. Today you must earn influence. Fewer people act out of duty. Or obligation. Or coercion. People do what they want. The question is: Do they want to follow you?
Even if you possess a title or position of authority, you still need influence to lead people. Any position you have is little more than a starting place, a chance to earn influence. Developing influence is both art and science. Some people influence others naturally. They have so much charisma, personality, beauty, or talent that people want to follow them.
But you don’t need to possess those things to develop influence or lead others. You can follow a formula: • Prove yourself. • Earn relationships. • Make your team successful. • Help people reach their potential.
Does the word formula sound cold or impersonal? It doesn’t have to. You’re not going to treat people as numbers or objects. You’re just taking the right steps in the right order. With each step, you help others. At the same time, you accomplish the tasks needed to gain influence with the people you’re working with.
This is how you gain influence. This is a formula anyone can follow. If you earn influence with someone, then you can lead them.
STEP 1 PROVE YOURSELF
Can you influence others without accomplishing anything yourself? Yes, to a degree. You can interest them. You can make them your fans. You can get them to like you. But can you take them anywhere? If people do nothing more than click Like, can you lead them where they need or want to go? Probably not.
Leadership is influence, but not all influence is leadership. Influence without action isn’t leadership. The ability to produce results has always been the separation line for success. It is also a qualifying line for leadership. It creates credibility.
That’s true in any community. If you can produce results, you prove yourself. And you start to develop influence. To prove yourself, don’t worry about your position or status. Stop asking yourself: What are my rights? Is my authority clear? Where am I on the organizational chart? How do I compare to others? How can I climb the ladder? Who do I need to know? What’s the next step in my career path? Forget about all that. Instead, get to work.
You can’t fake productivity. Either you’re producing for your team and adding to its bottom line (whatever that may be), or you’re not.
STEP 2 EARN RELATIONSHIPS
Building relationships with people is the next step in developing influence. When people feel liked, cared for, included, valued, and trusted, they gladly work together with their leader and each other.
You can change an entire working environment by building relationships. Relationships can break down organizational silos as people make connections across established lines. They think less about job descriptions or departments and more about other people. As more barriers come down and relationships deepen, trust grows. That foundation of trust changes the way people work together. And how they interact with their leaders.
The old saying is really true: People go along with people they get along with. Take the risk. Choose to build relationships. Yes, occasionally people will take advantage of you. Yes, you may be hurt. But the benefits far outweigh the risks. If you respect people, trust them, and treat them well, most of them will respond the same way to you.
If you are not a people person, it may take you some time to develop people skills. But it doesn’t have to take any time for you to let others know you value them. Express appreciation for them, and take an interest in them personally. You can do that now. Today.
STEP 3 MAKE YOUR TEAM SUCCESSFUL
If you can be productive as a person and help your team become productive and successful, your influence will grow to new heights. Being able to make the team successful is a qualifying mark of leadership.
Developing a group of people into a productive team is no easy task. You may find it challenging to get everybody working together to achieve a common vision. But what is the alternative? People doing their own thing, going their own way, the group never working together to accomplish anything significant?
Being part of a team of people doing something of high value is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. As a leader with influence, you have a chance to help people experience it. Don’t shrink back from that great opportunity.
A good team is always greater than the sum of its parts and is able to accomplish more than individuals working alone. It takes someone with influence to get those parts to work together. To influence team members toward success, you must show the way to productivity. People always believe what we do more than what we say. Your credibility as a team leader can be summed up in one word: example.
Lead by example and deliver results yourself. Show people the way forward. Your performance opens the way for their potential. Let results silence your critics and build your reputation.