Welcome to Top 10 Week.
Each day, I’ll be publishing an article that includes a Top 10 list of ideas, tips, or strategies (like today) that will help you be a better leader. Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. I’m going to offer you some of mine and let you decide if they’re good.
One of the top skills of every effective leader I’ve studied or seen is the ability to influence others. John Maxwell has said that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. So if influence is at the heart of good leadership, what can one do to develop it? Here’s some strategies to get you started and get you thinking:
I think this one shows up on every good list of leadership qualities. Think about it…most people assume that a leader’s greatest communication skill is the ability to speak. But that’s a myth. It’s the ability to listen. If you were to write out a list, the most influential people in your life truly know you and have been willing to sit down and listen to you. When we take the time to listen to others first, we gain the permission to speak into their lives.
What are some ways that you will not only listen, but show others that you’re listening?
We live in a culture that often lacks respect, especially when someone holds a different perspective than us. I don’t think people get as upset over disagreements as much as they do when they feel like someone disrespects them. I truly believe that people want to know what it means and what it looks like to have a civil discourse in our society. Unfortunately, too many people tend to completely dismiss someone if they hold an opposing viewpoint.
In conversations, are you trying harder to show someone respect or show them that they’re wrong?
I am always a bit taken aback when someone comes up to me and comments on something I said or did – and I’ve never met that person before. All they have to go on is my example. Whether for good or bad (hopefully good) they are influenced by my observable actions. Sometimes the most influential thing you can do is to live out, in front of them, the kind of life you hope from your followers.
If people watched a video of your life today with the volume “muted” what would they learn about you?
We all have a certain amount of minutes in a day and energy to expend. The question is: how are we using those things? When a leader makes an effort toward solving the problems of others, he or she gains influence in that area. A leader’s greatest source of job security is problem-solving. Keep solving problems for others, for your organization, and you make yourself indispensable.
What will you spend your energy on today?
I believe this is what makes the idea of servant leadership so powerful. One of my favorite leadership quotes regarding service says, “Follow me, I’m right behind you.” A leader who serves his or her followers demonstrates humility and honors them. A leader can say he or she cares…even create a seminar that talks about the benefits of serving others. But it’s the demonstrated acts of service that make all the difference and increase one’s influence.
Will your greatest act today be one of selfishness or one of service?
William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Much like some of the other suggestions on this list, gratitude becomes influential when it moves from the inside out. I have felt thankful (and that’s a great way to live). But the key here is to move gratitude from assumption (people hope I’m grateful) to assertion (people hear that I’m grateful).
How many different ways can you say thank you to someone today?
One of the ways a leader is influential with others is through the ability to cast a clear and compelling vision. But I don’t think you can create this kind of vision unless you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the possibilities of a better future. Awareness helps us understand nuance. It guides us to hear what people are saying, as well as what they’re not saying. This is the simple act of paying attention. If we know what’s going on, we’re more in tune with what’s next.
Are you creating a big picture that’s based on the all of the micro-messages that surround you?
I learned the powerful effect of consistency when I completed P90X. Disciplined investments, over time, in the same direction, will get you results. When you are consistent, your followers know what to expect. Over time, the message you send with your actions and words make an impression. If you live your life in the same direction (consistent in your values), there are less surprises. People like change they can plan for rather than change they are surprised by.
Do your values match your words and your words match your actions and your actions match your values?
Business author, Harvey Mackay, advises people to “dig their wells before their thirsty.” While this solid wisdom is meant for those building their network, it has merit for building influence as well. The best kind of influence is reciprocal. It’s formed in relationship. This means it’s wise to take the time to invest in those things that will build the relationship. For example, I strive to build trust by being trustworthy, dependability by my follow-through, and likability by my attitude.
Are you building relationships that may benefit from your influence later on?
Ultimately, I think people are most influenced by love. Being loved and loving others is the deepest type of influence. We make the most important decisions of our lives based on who and what we love. It’s emotional and raw and often hard to measure. But we know it when we see it. Love changes the dynamic of our interactions.
In the spirit of Tina Turner, ask yourself throughout the day: What’s love got to do with it?
I recently tweeted that “Influencing others for my benefit is manipulation. Influencing others for their benefit is motivation. Influencing others for everyone’s benefit is leadership.”
How have you grown in your influence with others?
Which one of these Top 10 strategies stuck out to you?
What other strategies have you used?