Merriam-Webster defines influence as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.”
Good leaders know the importance of influence because stellar employees have a choice of where they work. An effective leader must master the ability to influence others positively because the days of top-down authority are long gone. No longer will people tolerate authoritarian leaders and those they don’t respect—that’s why influence should be one of your highest valued skills as a leader!
But how do you develop the skill of influencing others positively? Here are three essential qualities and abilities of an influential leader:
Develop a relationship based on mutual trust. Trust can be built through words, but it’s mostly based on your actions and behaviors. Warning: don’t rush through this step; trust is built over time through many small interactions, not overnight. Skipping this step is the fastest path to mistakes.
Recognizing and appreciating people for who they are, what they do, and the qualities you admire about them is a way to build influence. Acknowledging people must be genuine and in the moment. In other words, don’t wait until the appreciation event or annual performance review to recognize your people; by then, it might be too late to make a difference.
Communication breakdowns happen all the time, and they can be avoided if we do a better job communicating. Master this step by clearly stating what you want and need from someone, outline the steps, and explain what completion looks like. Then ask the person to clarify by putting the instructions in their own words to assure mutual understanding. And if you really want to be a master communicator, explain the why behind your directive and share how their work fits into the bigger picture.