When you observe leaders, do you notice a common thread? It’s not that people follow them— although that is an outcome of successful leadership. The common thread is that leaders have the ability to influence others. It’s a fundamental skill that leaders must master in order to be effective.
Here, we share four key points from the book Lead 4 Success: Learn the Essentials of True Leadership. The book points out that influencing others is one of the fundamental four skills of a leader (communicating, learning agility and self-awareness are the other three).
Leaders tap the knowledge and skills of a group, point individuals toward a common goal and draw out a commitment to achieve results. How do they do that? Here are the four influencing skills they use:
1. Political Intelligence: All organizations have two sides: The formal structure pictured on the organization chart and the informal organization that shows how (sometimes) things really get done. Politically savvy leaders understand both. They view politics as a neutral and necessary part of organizational life that can be used constructively and ethically to advance organizational aims.
For a leader, political savvy in action looks like this:
- Networking to build social capital, including mingling strategically
- Thinking before responding, considering context and goals before deciding when and how to express themselves
- Paying close attention to nonverbal cues, practicing active listening, considering how others might feel and finding ways to appeal to the common good
- Leaving people with a good impression, without coming across as trying too hard
2. Promote Yourself, Promote the Organization: Self-promotion is often seen as bragging or selfishness, but influential leaders know that by promoting themselves authentically, for the right reasons, they can cut through the information that bombards us each day. It can provide visibility and opportunities for their direct reports, generate team and organizational pride, and make capabilities and ideas more visible across the organization, which ultimately enhances collaboration.
Two self-promotion strategies stand out. First, leaders who are good at this skill find ways to gather an audience. They may ask more people to be part of a team, initiative or problem-solving process. Second, self-promoters find ways to step into the spotlight at selected events and meetings, sometimes creating their own events.
3. Build And Maintain A Foundation Of Trust: Without trust, leaders may be able to force people to comply, but they’ll never tap into the full commitment, capabilities and creativity the group can offer. Leveraging these assets is invaluable when tackling tough challenges or making strategic change—so trust is vital.
Trust involves a careful balance between pushing people into areas where they’re uncomfortable while also listening carefully to their concerns and feedback. Leaders must work to maintain their trustworthiness, weigh their toughness and empathy as individuals, manage their struggle with transition and temper urgency with patience as change proceeds.
4. Network Influence. Finally, leaders who are skilled at influencing others recognize and cultivate the power of networks. Organizations are increasingly dynamic; they morph in size and shape over time. Influential leaders recognize that their personal networks must also be dynamic, and they continually grow and strengthen their networks. They are also strategic about choosing how and when to tap into this network.
Practice these for skill sets and watch your level of influence grow.
Source: George Hallenbeck is the author of Lead 4 Success: Learn the Essentials of True Leadership as well as director of Commercialization for CCL Associates where he leads an innovation platform called All-Access Leadership. It is focused on enhancing, re-imagining and creating product offerings that empower and enable clients to deliver and experience CCL’s intellectual property in ways that match their needs and strategies. Hallenbeck has co-authored seven books including FYI for Learning Agility and Learning Agility: Unlock the Lessons of Experience, and has another forthcoming book as well. He has written numerous white papers and journal articles, as well as pieces for publications such as BusinessWeek Online and CLOmagazine.