Why a critical success factor for leaders is their ability to influence the right people
Learning how to influence and persuade others is an invaluable workplace skill. It could be said it is the one key skill people need to succeed.
After all, without influencing and persuasion skills, how can you inspire those around you to follow your lead to achieve remarkable feats?
But with these skills, you can move mountains. And, you can do this by:
· Inspiring trust and rapport
· Communicating your vision effectively
· Driving consensus and unity
· Igniting innovation and adaptation
However, this remarkable talent doesn't emerge by chance—it is cultivated through a deep understanding of the timeless principles of influence, as elucidated by renowned social psychologist Robert Cialdini and his co-founder of the Influence at Work consultancy Steve Martin.
Following our successful Influence at Work masterclass with behavioural scientist Steve Martin himself, we uncover why it is absolutely crucial for business leaders to master these principles and harness their power in the workplace.
Why is Influence Important in Leadership?
“The most critical success factor for leaders is their ability to influence the right people, at the right time, about the right thing.” – Daren Martin, culture expert
As Good to Great author Jim Collins says, "Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done."
Essentially, the art of getting people to do something is the art of influence, and by mastering it, leaders build strong relationships and establish themselves as authentic and reliable people worth following.
Leaders who understand and use this influence the right way to unite a team to achieve great things will pull ahead of the pack.
By harnessing the 10 qualities all successful leaders have in common, and being mindful when using tools of persuasion and influence, leaders can build relationships and trust faster and inspire people to follow them.
No wonder statistics show 83% of employers state it's crucial to develop leaders at all levels.
How to Boost Your Influence in the Workplace
Business leaders influence others all the time, often without realising. It’s well documented that your leadership affects those around you – every behaviour, every word, and every action. Even your body language and the absence of action can profoundly affect others.
Here are 6 examples of ways you can influence others in the workplace:
Develop Expertise and Credibility
To increase your influence, become an expert in your field. Continuously expand your knowledge, stay updated on industry trends, and seek opportunities to develop specialised skills.
By positioning yourself as a credible and knowledgeable resource, colleagues and superiors will naturally turn to you for workplace coaching and peer learning, as well as other areas of influence within the organisation.
Build Connections with Colleagues
Building genuine connections with your colleagues is instrumental in enhancing your influence.
As our regular masterclass speaker Michael Bungay Stanier often attests, it is vital you actively listen to others, demonstrate empathy, and show a genuine interest in their perspectives. By nurturing authentic relationships, you create a foundation of trust and rapport, making it easier to influence and collaborate with others towards shared goals.
Influence at Work UK CEO Steve Martin says that good personal consistency is highly valued in our culture. Inconsistency is commonly thought to be an undesirable personality trait, especially in a leader.
As well as consistency of behaviour, insisting upon consistency of your brand's tone, messaging, and visual identity creates a cohesive and recognisable experience for employees and the customer.
Consistency builds trust and reinforces others’ commitment in you as a leader as well as the values and the brand you stand for.
Get Great at Communication
Effective communication lies at the heart of influence. Hone your communication skills through training in better storytelling, active listening skills, understanding the purpose of your presentations, and delivering them with clarity.
Accountability expert Mark Green also advises being transparent in your communications, instead of playing your cards close to your chest.
The ability to communicate persuasively will significantly enhance your influence and inspire others to align with your vision.
Embrace Collaborative Decision-Making
Influence is not about exerting control but rather about fostering collaboration and inclusivity.
Involve others in decision-making processes by seeking their input, listening to diverse perspectives, and integrating valuable insights into your decisions. This will be easier and more effective only if you can create a psychologically safe workplace.
As people learn to trust that their opinions and feedback are genuinely appreciated, they will offer you their creativity and support, and your influence across the organisation will be boosted.
Lead by Example
Most importantly of all, actions speak louder than words when it comes to influence.
Recent research shows leading by example in areas of commitment, responsibility, and dedication results in employees increasing their initiative in work and sense of ownership of the organisation.
So, be a role model by exemplifying the behaviours and values you wish to see in others.
Demonstrate integrity, accountability, and a strong work ethic. Strive for excellence in your own performance and encourage others to do the same. When your actions consistently align with your words, your influence will naturally grow, as people are inspired by your leadership.
3 Real Examples of Leaders Influencing Others
Across the world there are tens of thousands of examples of leaders influencing others through leading by example, communicating well, developing expertise, including others in decision-making, and more.
Here are a few examples:
Henrik Poulsen, former CEO of Ørsted
Ørsted was the first energy company in the world to fully transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
In 2012, former CEO Henrik Poulsen made bold steps to rid what was then “Danish Oil and Natural Gas” of its fossil fuel assets.
Despite enormous opposition, Poulsen used his powers of persuasion and influence to gain support, and the organisation became the global leader in offshore wind.
“People fundamentally believed in what we were doing. That translates into productivity….and drives your competitiveness,” he’s quoted as saying in CEO Excellence.
By the time he retired in 2021, the company renamed Ørsted was the most sustainable company in the world.
Dave Brailsford, former performance director of British Cycling
When Dave Brailsford became performance director of British Cycling in 2003, it was to change the course of history. From winning just one Olympic Games gold medal in 100 years, the team was transformed to became world leaders in cycling.
As James Clear sets out in his book Atomic Habits, Brailsford used his influence to improve literally everything – a strategy he called “the aggregation of marginal gains.”
He persuaded everyone on the team to improve every aspect of bike riding by 1%, which added up to a world-beating improvement.
Michelle Poler, founder of the Hello Fears movement
An anxious child and adult, Michelle Poler realised when she moved to New York that her fears threatened to hold her back.
She began her “100 days without fear” campaign, described in the book Anatomy of a Breakthrough by Adam Alter. Each day, for 100 days, Poler did something that scared her.
She spoke in front of crowds, flew a plane, did stand-up comedy, crowd-surfed, crashed a wedding, and ate oysters.
Following her journey to inoculate herself against fears, Michelle Poler began the Hello Fears movement. She has led by example to empower millions to step outside of their comfort zone and tap into their full potential.
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