Nancy Kaur
22 May 2021

What does, ‘influence’ mean?  How can we use it appropriately in our lives?

The definition of influence is, the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.’ (Cambridge English Dictionary)

Why is influence important to leadership today? Influence is an essential leadership quality that gives you the ability to move just one individual or a large group.

You can use influence to launch a new initiative, make strategic decisions, and create change in your organisation. Influential leaders perform what others believe to be important.

What are the criteria of influence?  What are the positive and negative considerations for each criterion?

It is important to remember that having influence means more that just talking; it is about taking charge and understanding the role of position power, emotion, expertise, and nonverbal communication and how these components are inextricably linked.  To delve a little further into influence I would like to present these components with some explanation.

  • Positional power is the authority you have by virtue of your position in the organisation’s structure and hierarchy.  Personal power is your own skill and ability to influence people and events whether you have any formal authority.

    As you can see there are many potent terms in the description of positional power and even when you consider personal power, so we need to be mindful not to abuse this power dynamic.  Positional power relates to the role you hold in the organisation.  For example, the executive leadership team and the CEO can influence their employees to undertake tasks and responsibilities that align with their job or role description.
  • Emotion is an aspect of influence.  Positive emotion can motivate and inspire. Leaders who are equipped with the emotional self-awareness and self-control to manage themselves while being adaptable, positive, and empathetic can express their ideas in a way that will appeal to others.
  • In terms of passion, expertise is another aspect of influence. As a leader influence is how someone reacts to your status.  Expertise is how someone reacts to your knowledge. 

    Employees want to know who has the most knowledge on a topic so that they can align their thinking with a credible source.  Expertise without passion is not always effective. So, to have influence you must be adept at weaving all of these components into your professional toolkit.
  • Nonverbal communication carries a lot of weight in the mastery of the dance of human interaction. The mastery of subtle signs of conversational cuing is profound and be highly influential in building and sustaining workplace relationships.

    Nonverbal communication cannot be overstated.  Nonverbal communication is often used to make an expression of a thought or thoughts and make your message more appealing and interesting to who you are speaking.  Nonverbal communication has a great influence over our social environment and the whole communication process.

Consider the above four criteria of influence as you weave them into your mastery of human interaction which leads to a more influential person. Below I have outlined seven ways to build influence in the workplace.  Also, consider how these seven elements can transition into your personal life:

  1. Build trust with your co-workers (and friends).  Influence is most often and most easily carried through trust.
  2. Cultivate reliability through consistency.  Inconsistency is the fastest way to ruin your reputation.
  3. Be assertive; not aggressive.
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Be personal.
  6. Focus on actions rather than argument.
  7. Listen to others.

John Maxwell reminds us that, leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It is about one life influencing another.’  If that is the case, then it is extremely important to remember that when we influence another person, we hold a powerful position.  In that case, we must be respectful and trustworthy. 

The same power dynamic is true especially when you are navigating your social and familial world, don’t you think?

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