Over the years, management has changed from ultra-authoritative to a more collaborative style, emphasizing influence. However, nobody becomes an influential leader overnight. To carve influence, you have to put in a substantive amount of time spent learning, re-learning, and even unlearning leadership practices.
The Oxford dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.” To put it in perspective, influence is the ability to inspire and affect your team so effectively that there’s no need for strict instructions.
How do you transition from being a manager who provides instructions to a leader who ignites influence and inspiration? Here are the ten steps to take and apply in your leadership practices today.
- Be self-aware
A lot of managers are not aware of their bad leadership practices. This causes distraught within teams and may cost you valuable talent. In fact, at least 2 out of 10 employees leave their job because of a bad boss. The first step to becoming an influential leader is getting to know yourself and your leadership style.
Once you know your style, you can then tailor your approach according to what’s best. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all leadership style. It depends on your personality, your convictions, and your team’s nature of work. Feedback is of utmost importance. Keep an open line of communication with your team and let them know of their significance in your continuous improvement.
Tip: Be observant of your team’s response to a deliberate change in style, and see which is the most effective.
2. Be respectful
Character sets good leaders apart from bad ones. And good leaders are the ones who wield the most influence among their subordinates. Your attitude as a leader is reflected first and foremost in how you treat everybody in the room. Your regard for people, from the higher-ups to your direct subordinates to the custodians in the office, tells a lot about yourself. Naturally, people will be drawn to those who show respect regardless of the situation.
Be careful of what you say about other people. Show loyalty to those who aren’t present by saying things they won’t mind overhearing, and respect the confidentiality of sensitive matters that are entrusted only to you. It can be tempting to gain influence by badmouthing someone everybody dislikes, but this is a short-lived, ineffective influence that promotes division.
Tip: Promote respect in your team. Inject it into your work culture by defining respectful practices and being proactive in showing them.
3. Be approachable
You cannot be influential if you are not approachable. Be aware of your body language. Subtle but conscious habits can either encourage or discourage your employees from approaching you. Another thing you can do to be more approachable is to approach them first. Show them that you can hold a light and thoughtful conversation with any of them, whether in person or through chat. It opens up your communication line with your team, individually and as a group.
When you show interest in your team, they will feel valued. When somebody is sure of their worth in your company, they will be more than willing to deliver more than expected. The goal of leadership is to rally your team towards a common goal, and it’s going to be a lot easier when they’re comfortable with their leader. They shouldn’t feel scared to inform you of work issues, whether technical or relational.
You can work around it by checking on one employee a day personally, even just through chat. A little chit chat goes a long way in sending the message that your team can approach you for advice.
4. Be confident
Nothing is worse than an insecure leader. They think that somebody is always after them, and they are prone to protect their positions in irrational, destructive ways. An influential leader is secure in their role much more than in his position, knowing that a job is simply a platform where they can perform in the service of the company and its employees.
The confidence you have in yourself will cascade down to your team. The more confident you are, the more trusting you will be of your employees. Instead of being at the receiving end of an insecure leader’s misplaced sense of power, they will be empowered to do and create more because you give them ample space to work on. Delegate big tasks, and don’t be afraid that your subordinates might outshine you. A true leader’s mind isn’t occupied by nonsensical thoughts such as that.
Tip: Include your team in confidence-building by taking a risk together. If you or an employee has a great idea but is risky to try, take it head-on altogether. Win or lose, you have succeeded in solidifying your team’s confidence in themselves, in each other, and you.
5. Be a good example
If it applies to parenting, it mostly applies to leadership, right? Show, don’t tell, the work ethics that you want your employees to adopt. Influence is your whole team showing up on time because you show up five minutes before all of them. Your entire team is also tolerant of mediocre outputs because of how you let such things pass. Your example sets the workplace culture. If you know that you’re not a good influence on your team, take actionable steps to reset the existing culture.
What kind of energy do you bring to the workplace, for example? Nothing is more contagious than negativity or positivity. Being the leader, it’s up to you to set the tone for a day’s work. If your team is encouraged even with just your presence in the room, then you’ve already achieved being an inspiration. However, your employees will avoid you like the plague if all you bring is negative comments, rants, and blame-throwing.
Tip: Decide on a daily that you will be an excellent example to your team. Before you know it, your set standards have become part of firmly rooted work culture.
6. Be generous
You can draw people towards you by being generous in praising accomplishments. You won’t lose anything by acknowledging your employees’ significant contribution to the team. Assume the place of an advocate of your employees, that you care for them and that you love to see them succeed. Never miss an opportunity to give a kudos, a pat on the back, no matter the size of the job well done.
Another way to increase your influence is by being generous in the knowledge and wisdom that you share. The most successful business owners are those that are not stingy with their secrets to success. They are known to spend time replicating themselves in their employees. Be your team’s coach, and they will look up to you with such high regard. Conduct regular huddles to train them in your expertise, give professional advice to those asking, and allocate your precious time towards your employees’ development
Tip: When you praise someone’s effort, include some form of rewards, such as a gift certificate to your favourite coffee shop or a paid day-off.
7. Be humble.
As much as you have a lot to impart on your employees, they also can teach you so much. It takes humility to acknowledge this, and it can be hard for leaders to be humble. An attitude of humility helps you be more receptive to feedback, instructions, and valuable lessons that would help your continuous growth.
Keep in mind that leadership is not about you. Hopefully, your team respects your authority, and you won’t have to assert your position over and over again. If such is the work climate, you can listen and accept the corrections you might have to undertake in your leadership with more ease.
Tip: Remove the seniority in your company culture. Start with your core team by always being a first-name basis with everybody. Sir and Ma’am are so two thousand and late.