Leadership is influence and influence is leadership. This is something that is often stated by leadership legends like John Maxwell and Ken Blanchard, and it is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.
So this means that if we want to improve our leadership then maybe we should focus on increasing our Influence.
Influence is interesting as it can come from many different areas and to maximise it you need to work on each of those areas, some of which might come as a surprise to you.
Here are 6 areas of influence that I would suggest that you start with.
Leadership is influence and influence is leadership, so if you want to boost your leadership the best place to start would be by boosting your influence.
First up is character. Who we are, what are our values and what do we stand for are key contributors to our character and these help us to build trust. Do we show integrity, are we authentic and are we respectful, all of these matter and the stronger our character the more likely people are to follow us.
To improve character we need to understand our values, and then look to consistently act in line with them, as this is shows we walk our talk.
The reason why reputation is important is because this is what people say about us when we are absent. This means that this is what influences when we are not there ourselves and the better our reputation the bigger that influence will be. We need to work hard to create our reputation and remember that whilst it can take a while to build it can be lost in seconds if we are not careful.
A lot of people have what I call accidental reputations, they let people define it for them, and if you want to sharpen your reputation then you need to talk control of it.
Be clear about what you want to be known for and then act accordingly.
I once worked for a boss who was known as “5-minute late Pete” because he was always 5 minutes late to his own meetings. This was in spite of him being one of the best program managers I had worked with. That was his reputation and how people described him, so if you didn’t know about is PM skills all you would know is he was always late.
Our reputation is one of our greatest assets and you need to take ownership of it and to protect it. Make your brand intentional by identifying the key attributes you want to be known for and then reinforcing them. Oh yes and if you have any bad habits that overshadow the good work to drop them as quickly as possible.
What we do says more about us than anything that we say. And not only do our actions need to be congruent with who we are in order to build trust and show authenticity they can also be very inspirational.
Leading from the front, setting the tone and leading by example are all important in leadership and these are all about the actions we take, about what we do and how we do it.
Also, Leadership defines culture and it’s through our actions and people copying what we do, rather than what we say, that creates the culture.
Look to inspire people by your actions, be mindful that people are watching you, and look to set the right example. Be prepared to speak out or stand up against things you don’t agree with, or roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
The more expert we are in a subject the more likely people are to ask for our input and the higher the influence we can have on the outcome. It’s because of their expertise that many people get promoted in the first place. The more knowledgeable we are on a subject the more input and impact we can have.
One of my favourite sayings is “All leaders are readers” and i think that this is a reminder that as leaders we need to keep our knowledge up to date and be continual learners. This doesn’t mean we need to be an expert in everything, but the more we know the more we can contribute and consequently the more influence we can have.
When I first heard that my network was a key source of influence, I have to admit I didn’t believe it. But remember the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. That there is a reference to the power of our network, and the stronger the network we have the more people we can call on for support, for guidance or for help.
I had a friend who was Tony Robbins PA for many years, as soon as people knew this her standing in the group went up immediately. It didn’t change who she was, what she did or how she did anything, but it gave her influence because of who she knew and who she could call on in times of crisis.
Building our network is one of the easiest things we can do, it has almost limitless potential, but it is not just about connecting with people we also need to serve and nurture our network so that when we need to call on them they will be responsive.
The role we occupy comes with influence attached to it. For example, if you are the captain of the ship, the CEO or a team leader you have a level of authority that comes with the role which you can use to influence.
There is a subtle difference between authority, which is what our position gives us, and true influence. Yes, we have to follow what our boss says, many of us don’t have a choice, but real influence comes when people would still follow you if they did have a choice.
When you have to rely on your position to be a leader, when you lose the position you lose your influence, and this is why, for me, this is the weakest form of influence.
It also means that if this is your only source of influence then you cannot lead unless you have a position, and you are unlikely to get a position without any other type of influence.
Real leaders don’t rely on position, they work on the other five sources of influence, and this allows them to lead even when they don’t have a position.
So if you want to be a leader, or want to improve your leadership then work on improving your influence.
The more influence you have the more impact you can have!