Being influential is essential to being successful. Influence is communication and behavioral skill that allows the leader to establish his/her authority into a situation that results in others responding with thought and action. To be an effective leader requires you to be an influencer. If you cannot influence others your only courses of action are to try to do it yourself (an impossible task) or use command/control tactics that result in robotic actions, inflexible attitudes, a lack of inspiration and creativity and a low-quality outcome.
Part of influence is the skill of asserting your thoughts, opinions, decisions, and direction into the conversation whether you have the authority or not. Authority comes from position, rank or universal acknowledgment of a person’s expertise or experience. But sometimes leadership is required when these three prerequisites are not in place. We see this most often when a person tries to lead laterally or upward in an organization or group or in establishing leadership in community and volunteer endeavors.
How does one establish influence without authority?
1. Choose your words wisely. Influencers use robust and active voice in their communications. They use action language designed to empower and enable others to act.
2. Actively engage in listening, understanding and drawing out the expert insights of others.
3. Strategically position yourself in the room. It doesn’t matter if it is a classroom setup or sitting around a table, position yourself in a visible place that also allows you to observe the expressions and body language of other participants.
4. Speak with passion and conviction. This passion and conviction bring an energy to the meeting.
5. Communicate purpose, setting the tone for expected meeting outcomes.
6. Identify and categorize the results of the conversation.
7. Seek next steps and a followup plan to execute on the findings.
8. Take ownership of some of the outcomes to communicate your commitment to these outcomes.
9. Continually seek and deliver the win-wins of taking the actions desired
10. Know how to identify if there are other influencers present that are like-minded and let them share in the role of influencing.
Influencing others is never easy but having the authority to change makes it easier; but being able to control without the power is an essential skill especially for young, aspiring leaders.