The Art of Influence: Becoming a Leader Worth Following
Steve Keating with Lead Today says, “You may hold a leadership position but if no one is following you then you aren’t leading, you’re only going for a walk.” Are you leading or going for a walk? The art of influence and becoming a leader worth following requires self-care, self-awareness, being intentional, and building trust, connection, and relationships. All of these lead to having a positive impact on others and being a person of influence.
You cannot give away what you do not possess. Before you can expect to lead others well, you have to intentionally lead yourself well. Rory Vaden defines influence simply as, “The ability to inspire action.” Guess who the first person you have influence on is? It is YOU. To be a leader worth following, you must inspire yourself to take action on self-care, self-awareness, being intentional, and building trust, connection, and relationships.
Once you begin leading yourself well, your influence on others will begin to grow. Why? Because people will notice, whether consciously or sub-consciously, that you are rested, energized, engaged, interested, and able to empathize and problem solve. Let’s explore how all of this works.
Self-care & Self-awareness
Self-care is simply taking good care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The state of your mind, body, and spirit all impact how well you lead. Rest, a healthy diet, and nourishing our minds and spirits contribute to self-care. Having fun and fellowship is also a must for self-care.
Becoming self-aware allows you to get out of your way and stop wrecking things unintentionally or intentionally. It includes recognizing these three things:
- Your natural tendencies and behaviors.
- How they affect you and others. (consequences)
- Your reality.
You can begin to manage those negative behaviors by identifying ways to modify them to get better outcomes. There is a GiANT Tool we teach called Know Yourself to Lead Yourself. In its simplest form it works like this:
- We all have tendencies.
- Tendencies lead to patterns.
- Patterns lead to actions.
- Our actions have consequences.
- Our consequences shape our reality.
When you shed light on your negative tendencies and begin working towards better behavior, people notice and your influence grows.
Leadership requires consistency in all areas of our lives:
You should strive to be consistent in all of these areas. To do so, you need to be intentional, not accidental. You do this by first realizing not everyone and every area of life is the same. Different people need different things from you so your leadership has to reflect the needs of each person you lead. If you are not consistent or fail to acknowledge these differences, then you will undermine your influence and leadership potential.
Whether they know it or not, people are always looking for four things when deciding whether to grant their trust to you:
Your character reflects your integrity, strength, nature, and persona. Your Chemistry is how well you connect with others. Competency is your skills and capabilities. Credibility is your trustworthiness and reliability…doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.
Without these four things, effective relationships cannot be built and influence does not happen. But when you do fulfill these things, there is a deeper opportunity to develop long-term relationships with significant impact. Understand that it takes time and intentionality to build trust.
Having connection with those you lead impacts your influence on them. Things to consider in helping you build connection are:
- Communication: Become others-aware by recognizing, and even asking, how they like to communicate. (face-to-face, email, text, phone) Understand that some people are social, some are reserved, and some are moderately social and reserved. People who are social like to share while those who are reserved may be more private. People moderately social and reserved are a little social and private. Being considerate in how each of them likes to communicate and treating them according to their needs will build trust and influence.
- Time: How you spend your time matters to the people you lead. Consider the formal and informal time you spend with others. Formal time could be regular 1:1s, training workshops, meetings, and other structured activities. Informal time could be an encouraging text, coffee or lunch together, drinks after work, or stopping by someone’s office socially or to check-in and offer support.
- Identify with a person’s role, pressures, and expectations so you may lead them with intention and according to their needs.
Influential leaders are intentional about building connection, to some degree, with everyone they encounter.
The key to having impact with people is to put the relationship before opportunity. You show others you are “for them” verses “for yourself.”
This happens by listening, asking clarifying questions, and being interested. You can ask simple questions like:
- How’s it going?
- How’s your family?
- How’s your team?
- What’s going on in your organization?
By asking questions like this, you are putting others first. You start to build trust and communicate that you are “for them” and fighting for their highest good. As they share, you will start to better understand their reality and the pain they are experiencing. Your job is to discover their “felt need” so that you can offer solutions that have instant impact.
The result of you putting the relationship first is you have become significant, memorable, and impactful in their life. The great thing is, once you become significant and valuable to someone, they often want you to continue to help them solve their pain.
Put others first, be interested, discover their pain, work to help them find a solution, and then watch as your influence expands.
All of the areas above contribute to the impact and influence you have on others. Your impact is the fruit of your leadership. At times, you may see it immediately but mostly your impact occurs over time.
I recently ran into someone who was a student many years ago in the church youth group where I used to lead. After catching up with them – they are an adult with a family now – I was reminded on my drive home how I played a part in helping them “come out of their shell” as a youth. They were shy, withdrawn, and seemingly unhappy when they first started coming to the youth group. Seeing their smiling face and happy spirit the other day reminded me of the impact them being in the youth group had on their life. Their experience could have been different had it not been for a few leaders who were intentional with building trust, connection, and relationship with this youth. That’s one way impact looks over time.
Would you like to become a leader worth following? Are you ready to make an investment in yourself that will help you get out of your own way? We would be thrilled to partner with you on this journey! We have the tools, resources, and people who will guide you to becoming a person of influence and a leader worth following. Contact us today.