How to Become a More Influential Leader

Have you ever wondered why some leaders are more influential than others and wonder how they do it? It is a common question in my practice and many leaders in our coaching sessions, especially those taking on new levels of authority, often want to work on growing their influence.

In this highly-networked and integrated business world, it becomes necessary to build relationships with a variety of stakeholders in order to succeed. Each successful relationship creates more influence as people tend to give you more time, to listen more carefully, and to value your opinions and ideas. As you continue to build these healthy productive relationships, more opportunities for creating influence arise.  It can be simpler than you think to create influence, but it will take time and effort and consistency. It is really about creating a solid business relationship based upon trust and then leveraging that relationship.

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On the SoundLeadership Circle this month, I was pleased to host a discussion on this very topic with Kathleen Taylor, chair of the board of RBC and former president and CEO of the Four Seasons Group. Taylor shared her leadership insights from her own illustrious and influential career and her tips resonate with those listed below: take the time to invest in building trusting relationships; lead by example; listen; be of service and take a risk to advance your interests through influence when necessary.

Here are some steps you can take to grow your influence based upon this thinking:

  1. Identify the key stakeholders with whom you need to establish a working relationship and with whom you serve. Include: top performers on your team, key clients and advisors to your business, other influential leaders, top sales leaders, shared services experts, community leaders, subject matter experts in your industry and key senior executives that you admire.
  2. Strategize ways to create visibility with these individuals. Consider ideas such as: take time to listen to their needs and wants, volunteer to work on their pet project, ask to lead committee work for which they are responsible, invite them for coffee to get to know them better, share an interesting new idea with them and ask for their input, share your expertise with them, if you have bandwidth, offer to assist them, take an interest in their work, and/or ask them to visit your team or location.
  3. Once you establish a relationship, keep nurturing it. Find ways to stay connected. Social media is often useful to check in. Refrain from just relying on social media, however, because nothing compares to personal, one-on-one, face-to-face time. Remember, investing in relationship-building takes time but it’s time well-spent.
  4. If you are given responsibility or if you offer to be of service, do your part and follow through. Meet or exceed on your deliverable. Lead by example. Step up. Show them your best work. This will lead to building trust between you – where you can count on each other.
  5. Be consistent. Nothing ruins a new relationship or lessens influence faster than not consistently delivering.
  6. Once trust is established, you will be at a stage where you will have achieved some level of influence. People will take your call, help you out, perhaps even advance your priorities. Your responsibility in the relationship requires you to do the same.
  7. When the time is right and the outcome is just and important, take a risk and make your pitch. Don’t be afraid to wield your influence.

If this all becomes part of your business profile, and you keep working your network, delivering what you promised and offering to be of service, soon you will have increased your field of influence. People will want not only to assist you, but to seek you out for advice and respect your leadership skills.

Resources. Listen to the webinar with Taylor. Another resource is this great article on building influence. And some of my other thoughts on leadership.


Sandra Hokansson

Sandra Hokansson
Sandi Hokansson is a certified executive-level coach and principal of SoundLeadership. Reach her at sandi (at) soundleadership (dot) ca.

Sandra Hokansson

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