Influence: The Most Sought After Leadership Skill

There are so many puzzle pieces that make up a good leader. From the mundane—like punctuality—to the intricate—like the ability to listen—it takes all types of attributes and skills to excel as a leader. Perhaps most important of all? Influence.
We know, it’s a topic you’ve heard us preach about in the past. It’s even, to an extent, the topic of Dan’s book, ORBiT: The Art and Science of Influence. It’s also the topic of this month’s newsletter: influence as the key leadership skill.
So why, exactly, do we place so much value in influence? As a leader, your job isn’t to keep numbers in line or to push product out the door; your job is to lead and corral the folks who make those things happen.
In order to shepherd your employees, you must—you guessed it—influence them. You’re constantly molding them into the staff you need them to be, whether that’s through example, coaching, revision or even admonition. It’s your job, and yours alone, to influence and shape your employees’ behaviors, outlooks and buy-in to most benefit your business.
Influence doesn’t simply mean to set a good example or to push someone into a new behavior. It’s subtle. It’s an art. If you merely tell someone to change, they’ll rebuke your ideas point-blank. But if you coax and mold their approach, you’ll see them blossom.
Unfortunately, influence is a dying art. We’ve learned—as customers, employees and leaders—to accept less, to settle, to lower our expectations. That means we’re complacent in our leadership and allow small imperfections to go unchecked, which then easily grow into big, glaring mistakes.
If you see someone doing the wrong thing or if they’re a poor performer and you say nothing, their behavior is then entirely your fault. You’re not doing the right things to get your people to do the right things. It’s your job to influence them and help them become better at their job. And if you try and they still fail, then it’s time to let them go.
Being influential means so many different things. It means tapping into your vulnerability to gain buy-in from your employees; it means being infallibly honest; it means committing yourself completely and being totally present; it even means holding your head high when you speak with authority, and leaning in and making eye contact when you listen.
The art of influence requires many traits, most of all commitment. You can’t do your job half-heartedly and expect anything more from your employees. You can’t offer a one-time training and not follow through to ensure it’s enforced. You can’t perform behaviors you wouldn’t approve of in your staff. You have to be completely invested in your role as an influencer.
Once you recognize the importance of influence, the other things will fall into place. You’ll be punctual because that’s how your employees should be. You’ll listen and absorb the ideas of your staff and gain their trust. Those numbers will fall into line and the product will flow out the door—all thanks to your skills of influence.

You’re shaping the minds and spirits of those around you. As a wise man once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Recognize the import of influence and wield it wisely.

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