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Two Types of Influence in Leadership To Set You Apart

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

I was working with one of my executive clients last week, and she was getting quite frustrated. She was upset, overwhelmed, she didn't feel heard by her peers, and felt like she was working really hard and getting nowhere. Most importantly, she kept apologising for being emotional.

Emotions are a funny thing, often we try to hide them, apologise for them. But why? I think sharing emotions is incredibly vulnerable. After all crying is a natural way our body releases stress.

When I work with leaders, ultimately they're looking to elevate their leadership, they're looking to be more impactful, influential, perhaps even more inspiring.

Many believe that when something happens, people react to it. Actually, what happens is people feel an emotion and respond to that emotion rather than to the actual event/situation or scenario.

Influential leaders know that emotions drive people’s actions. So, they think about how they can influence people to think in a different way, feel in a different way, connect in a different way. If they are successful, people buy into what these influential leaders are about and get behind what they are advocating for.

If you think about it, embracing emotions, understanding emotions and being courageous enough to express emotions is what leaders need to be doing today to succeed. In my recent article on The Power of Connection, people are looking to connect with you as their leader, the real you, not the armoured-stiff-upper-lip you.

Just look at some of the most influential leaders around. They have a solid following who support their vision or mission. How? By tapping into the emotions of people, and connecting through influence.

There are two main types of influence when it comes to leadership.

1. Influence by transaction

People in positions of authority often use influence by transaction because many organisations still use a top-down hierarchical structure. People at the top of the company like the CEOs or senior management make key decisions that the rest of the organisation act upon.

This type of influence doesn’t necessarily look towards changing the future. It focuses on immediate action and results, which is why it’s a good approach during a crisis.

This type of leadership may seem non-directional, but it’s important to understand when you need to use it for your team. Collaborations, service leadership and other kinds of empathetic leadership is great. But in times of crisis, people need leaders who will get them through a rough period or tough and unpopular decision.

Most recently we've been tested when it comes to responding to crisis, It sometimes feels like every day there's a new crisis. It's important to recognise what's a crisis and what's just urgent or important.

Through influence by transaction, strong leaders give clear directions and communicate the outcomes they want to happen. This lessens stress and overwhelm for their teams.

Leaders who use this type of influence for projects that need to follow a linear or specific process will succeed. However, it's not sustainable long term, or if wanting to get people on board for a greater vision and transformation.

2. Influence by transformation

This type of influence gets things done through encouragement and support. It’s rooted in empathy and typically used in workplaces with a flatter structure.

Unlike a top-down structure where people at the top retain the most power (whether they're influential or not), flat structures remove hierarchical layers within the organisation. This means fewer people to report to and fewer “bosses.” This type of influence also allows leaders to empower their people to take on responsibility and expects everyone to be accountable to their own performance.

The key to using influence in this organisational structure is to cultivate an environment that promotes team problem-solving and collaboration. Silos between people are broken down.

Leaders who practise influence by transformation, acknowledge that their people have a lot of wisdom. So, they empower their people to share this wisdom for the business. This makes people work above and beyond the 'call of duty'. This allows people to follow rather than be pushed because they can get behind your vision and mission, they trust you because they know the real you.

Lead with Lasting Influence

As a leader, you can’t know everything. You don’t need to know everything (subject matter experts - I see you!). You can hire people whose skills and knowledge complement yours. You can let go of having to be the expert at everything and redirect some of your energy to helping others become experts, and letting them shine.

If you influence your people, whether it’s for the short or long term, then you empower them to take a little bit of pressure off your plate. You intrinsically hook them to your mission, vision, end goal and the direction you want to drive your team and the business towards.

Until next time, Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird, and think about what would make it easy for you to share your emotions (without apologising for it).


Ally Nitschke is a Leadership Expert, Courageous Conversation Specialist and Speaker. She has been working with leaders and as a Leader for over 15 years. She is on a mission to change the way we communicate at work, to lean into those uncomfortable conversations and lead with courage. Ally delivers Courageous Conversations Programs, Courageous Leadership programs, Coaching, Mentoring and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.


If you are interested in having Ally speak at an upcoming event or would like more information about Ally's Programs please book a call.

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