When asked to provide a definition of leadership I most often describe it as influence. I add that if you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead.
Ken Blanchard, the renowned American Leadership expert and author of “The One Minute Manager” says that “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
Experienced leaders know that to be true. They also know that whatever influence they have comes from who they are not what they are. They know that their title or position provides no lasting influence. People with little or no leadership experience tend to greatly overestimate the importance of an important sounding title when it comes to influence.
People with little or no leadership experience assume that if they had a title or a position of leadership then they would have influence too. That’s a myth!
Influence must be earned and a position merely gives you a chance to do that. A position or title gives you the opportunity to earn the respect required to have lasting influence. It gives you a bit of time to demonstrate you deserve to be trusted but in that time you will earn your level of influence whatever level it turns out to be.
Good leaders earn influence beyond their stated position. They quickly learn that a position doesn’t make a leader but a leader can make a position.
In order to grow your influence you must first build trust. People who do not trust you will not be open to your influence. To build trust you must do what you say you will do…every time. Consistently following through on your commitments is the fastest way to build your reputation. Being inconsistent when following through with commitments is the fastest way to destroy it.
Doing something grows influence far faster than saying something. You can be an awesome speaker but words alone will never grow your influence. You need to speak through your actions and when your words and actions are in alignment your level of influence is limitless.
One often overlooked skill that will quickly grow your level of influence is the skill of listening. You can’t influence people you have zero relationships with. One of the fastest ways to develop a meaningful relationship with someone is to listen to them. REALLY listen.
Listen as if they are the only person who matters in that moment. Listen to every opinion and acknowledge it as important and valuable. You’ll quickly discover that the fastest way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them. Two-way communication is vital to building influence because if no one is listening to you then you have absolutely no influence.
Influence is an exceptional asset in the workplace and in life. It is mandatory if you’re going to lead others. If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then don’t seek a position of influence, try instead to be a person of influence.