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5 Principles of Influential Leadership

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

With many leaders in lockdown around the country, I've been very lucky and grateful to be taking a group of leaders through our Courageous Leaders Program over the last week.

We've been talking a lot about how to be more influential as a leader for their staff, and also influencing change.

A true influential leader taps into the emotions of people and shows up in the best possible way. This ensures that the change they create has a lasting impact. If you want to become this type of leader, think about these five principles of influential leadership.

Influence is built upon a foundation of trust.

A leader who is not trusted has a limited ability to create and use influence.

One thing we've been talking about over the last week is 'doing right, rather than being right.'

When you don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk, then you build trust. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. On the other hand, most people will gladly take a blind step of faith for someone whom they have come to trust.

Influence is built upon making others successful.

Back in my corporate days, this was my go-to strategy for influence. I loved to raise people up, help them to become super-skilled so they could accelerate their career. Having a super skilled team not only helped me out, it also raised the trust within my team. As they became more successful and had lots of opportunities, it helped build the reputation of a leader who creates other leaders.

This principle is also referred to as the law of reciprocity. You’re more likely to influence people by helping them achieve their goals. If you invest in making someone else successful then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you be successful.

Most people also refer to this as service leadership.

Influence is effective if you’re likeable.

People do business with people they know, like and trust. It’s that simple.

If you want to influence people then you need to be approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy. You have to be a person of character and integrity.

No one wants to work with someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and untrustworthy.

Of course, as human beings, there will be times when we feel empty, grumpy or tired. When you’re in this spot, have a think about how you can get back your likeability. If you need to take some time out, do it.

Self care for leaders is important. You can’t show up for your people and drive your business or team if you’re not looking after yourself.

Influence is routed through helping others maintain commitments.

People respect professionals who keep their commitments. In the leadership world, people often judge you by your ability to keep your word and deliver on your promises.

The key behind influencing via commitment lies in your ability to have people adopt an initial position that is consistent with a behaviour such that they are willing to agree to requests that are consistent with the prior commitment.

People desire to be perceived as dependable, reliable and successful and will normally go to great lengths not to have their track record or their reputation tarnished.

Gaining strong commitments early on and then simply holding people to their commitments ultimately helps them enhance their reputation for delivering on promises made.

This is a two-pronged approach. As a role model, you keep your own commitments. As a leader of people, you enable your teams to keep their word and their commitment.

So if there’s something you need to sign off on, approve or get out of the way for them, make sure you do that. This way, your people keep their commitments and you don’t create blockers along the way.

Influence is most often possessed by those with authority.

As the popular saying goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same is true when you wear the people-leader hat. You have a huge responsibility to make sure you lead in a way that is congruent with you, and with the people around you and in alignment with the direction of the business.

It’s also important to realise there is a reason for this statement: “The highest authority is that which is given and rarely that which is taken.”

Authority is most often given to those who display honesty, competency, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility and with credibility comes influence.

Since those with the most authority will always have the most influence, it’s important to remember to use your influence for the good of your people and your business.

Without the ability to influence others, you will find it hard to achieve traction for your people and business.

People now recognise the importance of influence leadership.

In the past, people could get away with being the “boss” and forcing people to follow top-down directions. In this new era of leadership, people don’t necessarily have to listen or agree with you even if you’re the leader.

So my question to you... Do you want to be an influential leader? If so, what's your first next step?

Until next time, Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird and level up your influence.


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