“There are two parts to influence: First, influence is powerful; and second, influence is subtle. You wouldn’t let someone push you off course, but you might let someone nudge you off course and not even realize it”. – Jim Rohn
It has been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. And what is leadership but the “art of Influence“? We are all leaders at certain points and periods in our lives whether we realize it or not. There will always be people over whom we have an influence to some degree; this is indisputable. But the question arises, what kind of influence do we or will we have? People around us are watching us. Our children are watching us, our colleagues are watching us and our friends and acquaintances are watching us.
What do I mean by watching? I mean this, that everything we do or say will have an impact on other people. People want to know if we are honest and trustworthy. They want to see if we are dependable and loyal. By our very words and especially our actions, we are influencers in our entourage. Do our actions match our words? The degree to which people will listen to us, take us seriously and even follow us will depend on the degree to which we “walk our talk'”.
“Your actions speak som loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying”.
How does this play out in our everyday lives? We all have different relationship spheres that we circle around in. We have our close relationship circles (family and close friends), we have our larger relationship sphere ( acquaintances, groups, neighbors) and we also have our professional sphere (colleagues, clients etc.) In all of these spheres, we are influencing one another to various degrees, depending on the nature of the relationship.
As the title of the article suggests, influence is an art. The book “Launching a Leadership Revolution” by authors Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward break down this Art of Influence or leadership into what the authors call: The Trilateral Leadership Ledger. They state that:
“For leaders growth cannot be optional. The only way to keep pace with increasing responsibilities is through increased ability” (p.94)
Growth must take place in two phases: personal and influence with others. The Trilateral Leadership Ledger deals with the first step: personal growth because a person can not influence others effectively without first taking care of his own personal growth. Personal growth in leadership, the authors say, is a function of Character, task, and relationships
Our character really refers to who we are as a person, that is to say, who we are on the inside. How do we measure up in integrity, honesty, patience, self-discipline, and humility?
This subcategory refers to our ability to get a job done. Can people depend on us to hold our end of the line? Qualities to look for here include a sense of responsibility. a work ethic, availability, willingness to invest our time, tenacity and perseverance.
This category refers to our ability to build strong bonds with others and get along even in all the ups and downs of life. A leader seeking to grow in this area would want to be: accepting of people, approving of people, appreciating of people, encouraging, seeing the good, seeking win-win solutions, and helping others to achieve their goals.
According to the authors, a leader can measure his overall personal growth by seeing he does in each of these three areas on a scale of 1-10. But, the authors caution, Each category is to be multiplied by the other two. For example, if a leader assesses himself as 8 in one category, 5 in another category, but 0 in the third, then the overall score would be 0, meaning there is still much work to be done. So the Trilateral Leadership Ledger is a measuring tool to evaluate personal growth in the three areas and determine his or her overall effectiveness.
Going From Personal Growth to Influencing
The authors suggest that there are two transitions that need to happen before a person can be an effective influencer in his or her entourage and before people will agree to follow.
Character (integrity, honesty, self-discipline etc.) needs to be multiplied by courage. What does this mean in practical terms? If someone has integrity and is honest, he or she will choose to live in such a way that they do what is right. They don’t rob, steal or tell lies. They keep away from shady goings-on. Courage steps in when we see something wrong is being done to someone, or in business, for example, and we step in order to right the wrong.
Our character is multiplied by the trust people have in us. To illustrate, we may be very strong in our character, we do what is right and we don’t fold when things are not being done honestly, but if we are not competent at what we do, then it really doesn’t matter how good our character is. People simply will not follow a leader they do not believe is competent to lead.
Competency refers to having the skills necessary for a particular job or position. We ask: Does he or she have the skills to do what he or she is doing? Often, people will say they have “x” number of years of experience when really what they have is “x” multiplied by the number of years they have been doing what they say they have experience in. In other words, they may have been doing it for a long time, but have not become a master in it. Experience and mastery are two different things. Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) points out that it takes thousands of hours to master a skill. He says that 10,000 hours are needed for elite mastery.
Many want to achieve world-class results but are not willing to put in world-class efforts and be in for the long haul. The result usually is that when the going gets tough, most go home. Not many are interested in being excellent at what they do, whatever they do and many settle for “good enough”. This is why there is such a big gap in work ethics, why corners are cut, time and money are wasted and squandered. It is too easy to take the short cut, do the minimum rather than put in the time. As the saying goes:
“When all is said and done, much more is said than actually done”.
So when followers ( employees, students, children, group members) do not see the leaders putting in the time or pursuing excellence in what they do, they are not likely to trust them or buy into the plan.
A Word About Relationships
In any leadership situation, relationship building is key. Nothing good will happen without solid relationships. A leader, whether parent, employer, teacher or other would do well to invest, and I do mean invest, time into building solid relationships. In his book “How to Have Confidence and Power In Dealing With People”, author Les Giblin outlines a triple-A formula for attracting people (and building strong relationships).
It is a universal human desire to want to feel accepted, much like the oxygen we need to breathe. And we strongly desire to be accepted just the way we are without the bells and whistles. We all want to be able to just be ourselves without having to wear a mask or put on a show just so others will like us. The author writes:
Strangely enough, the people who accept people, and like them just as they are, have the most influence in changing the other person’s behavior for the better (p. 66)
To accept others as they are, also means that we need to get rid of our expectations of how we think they should be, our prejudices, our filters and anything else that gets in the way of taking them as they are.
The author says that approval goes a step beyond acceptance; it has a more positive connotation. When we approve, we are actually trying to find something that we like about a person. People are not looking for flattery, but they are looking to be noticed for something about themselves. Showing approval means finding something about a person that merits highlighting in order to encourage them. Of course, approval doesn’t mean that we approve of everything the person does, but that we accept them as a person.
The word “appreciate” means to raise something or someone in value, so that is exactly what someone who wishes to be an influencer should strive to do. Find ways that will show them that you value them as a person and the work that they do. People want to know that they count. What are some ways we can do this, as examples?
- Don’t keep people waiting; respect their time and yours
- Thank people
- Communicate with people directly, not through emails, and voicemails or texts
- Acknowledge their presence and introduce them, if necessary
- Treat all people as special
It really doesn’t matter where we are or what the context is. Everyone deserves to be treated this way. The waitress at the corner café deserves to be appreciated as our most valued customer. The lady at the checkout counter deserves as much appreciation as our employer. And of, course we don’t do this for what we can gain- it’s not about ” I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”. An effective influencer is someone who serves others not for what they can do for him or give him or for what he will gain, he serves, lifts others up as a matter of being human. Our gestures will give them confidence.
A Word about Influence
As we have seen, we cannot just call ourselves an influencer and be one just like that. Becoming someone of influence is a process of self-examination and growth. We can not expect to have a positive influence on others if we have not learned to manage ourselves or, at least are in the process of doing so. First of all, if we have character weakness, if our actions are not in line with the values we say we hold on to, people will see right through the veneer. They will call us out or at least they will ignore us. Influence, like charity. begins at home (in our heart and mind).
Influence is also not a “do what I tell you to do” scenario. If we are not out in the field and down in the trenches, walking our talk, then we can hardly expect others to believe us or believe in us, can we? The people we are hoping to lead or influence expect that we are competent to do so, or, at the very least. doing our best to become competent. No one is going to be willing to work with or cooperate with someone who is just an orchestrator from the podium. People follow people who are fully engaged, present and willing to learn. In short, they expect leaders to be real and authentic.
Being well known or having a lot of contacts / or a big following is not necessarily an indication that a person is an effective leader. it takes more than fame and a huge following to be an influencer. Some very good influencers work with very small groups of people ( a family, for example, or a small group of friends). Just because a person’s name is well-known in social or business circles, does not make them an effective influencer. We need to be careful who we listen to and who we follow; they may be leading us away from who we are.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post. So many people in the world today want to give themselves a title without merit. Many are quick to call themselves this or that and often it is empty in terms of content. Becoming an influencer or a leader is just that – becoming. It is a process; it is a journey. People choose to follow us; it is not a popularity game. I hope that this post has been helpful to you in your journey wherever you are on that journey.
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca