How To Be A More Influential Leader
We’ve all seen it. Someone gets up to speak at a conference or management meeting, and people reach for their cell phones to check email or Facebook, and another person gets up to speak and everyone is captivated. There are those of us who naturally provide a listening ear to a colleague who seeks our advice and those who never have a colleague visit their office.
What’s the difference?
Just last week, I heard Julie Coker Graham, CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau speak to a group of professional women about building influence as a leadership trait. She defined influence as the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others. Julie shared that early in her career she learned the art of balance (aka “taking care of the customer”) even when the unexpected happens. Her ability to build influence shifted those challenges into opportunities.
No matter who you are, where you work, or what your professional goals are, achieving more influence is critical for a leader’s success. Building influence on a team can help you work together more effectively. In a supervisory position, building influence can make you more respected and appreciated. Building influence in a meeting can make your voice more likely to be heard and acknowledged.
What you can do
Here are a few skills that, if developed, can help you become a more influential communicator and a better leader:
Speak with confidence. There is a difference between someone who uses language such as, “I think we might be able to move in a different direction” and one who says, “We need to move in a different direction and here’s why.” Speak with authority. Use affirmative statements and speak in actionable terms versus using language of uncertainty. A confident and influential leader will cause people to listen differently. And if you ask Julie, she might tell you how her influence landed the 2017 NFL draft for the city of Philadelphia.
Be vulnerable. Too often we focus on success and achievement that we negate the value of learning in our failure. Sharing only your success stories can make you appear arrogant, which can shut down communication with others. No one wants to share a mistake or a problem with their boss who is perfect. Instead start sharing your failures and notice how being more vulnerable and honest will create a safe space for others to open up and share their mistakes with you.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
Ask for and listen to the ideas of others. By asking for and showing value for the ideas of those around you, you create a space for creative ideas to germinate and not be hidden out of fear or rejection. Make bad ideas just as good as good ideas.
Listen for understanding. We know that just because someone is facing us, it does not guarantee they are really listening. Instead of listening for the response you want to give, make yourself listen for understanding. What is the other person’s point of view? Listen fully and then see if you heard correctly by paraphrasing. “What I hear you saying is …” When you accurately paraphrase someone, they will immediately like you more, trust you more and just may contribute more.
Select one skill that you believe really matters in your development as a leader. Commit to its application and practice for the next 30-60 days. The only way to see positive changes in your leadership is to start now.
What do you think? Share your comment.