Leadership is Influence

The days of authoritative leaders who manage people with orders and heavy oversight are over. These old school leadership techniques are obsolete in our modern work culture. Organizational structures are flatter, and employees value transparency along with the ability to challenge rules and norms. For these reasons, leaders are relying on influence rather than authority to motivate today’s workforce.

Influential leaders do more than get the job done. They inspire people to work toward long term organizational goals. By developing employees instead of merely barking out orders, influential leaders are pioneering lasting change.

Here’s the good news. Influence is something you already have. And if you’re looking for ways to expand your reach, you can do that through understanding how to build and leverage your influence.


One type of influence is positional influence, and it comes with holding a leadership role in your company. People know you’re the boss and that they are accountable to you. You’re at the front of the meeting room. All eyes are on you. The position gives you the platform, but you’ll need to decide what to do with it.

Your position gives you a small degree of influence, but you’ll need to put in more work than that if you want to lead people effectively.

It’s also important to note that people who aren’t in leadership roles still have influence. We’re all interacting with people regularly -- coworkers, customers, vendors. Our actions, attitudes, and words are continually impacting people around us.


If you want to gain influence, you’re going to have to focus on your emotional intelligence skills. People follow people they like. And while you’re not in a popularity contest, no one wants to follow a jerk. Connecting with people on an emotional level is essential. Take time to get to know people and show genuine interest in them.

Building empathy is a critical way to increase influence. People want to follow leaders who make them feel seen, heard, and understood. When you foster relationships through empathy, people are open to receiving your input, ideas, and direction.

Other social skills like conflict resolution and giving praise will also build your level of influence. Be the one they go to when conflict comes up. Offer help to move forward when things get stuck. If you’re always there with an encouraging word, they’ll want to hear what you have to say!


Who do we turn to when we want facts and information that we can trust? The experts. One surefire way to gain influence in the workplace is to be an expert in your field. Gain expertise through continuous learning about your work and find better ways to do it. Go the extra mile on assignments. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. Give feedback to supervisors on insights you and your team have discovered to improve organizational processes.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” Gaining expertise will position you for more significant influence with leaders in your organization.

And when you’re the go-to-person in your area, people seek out your guidance. What better way to influence others than to share what you’ve learned and help them to solve problems. At the same time, you’ll be a role model to others, encouraging them to learn and grow too.

Nonverbal Communication

We’ve all experienced people who seem to command the room when they enter. What is it about them that makes people take notice before they even say a word? Nonverbal communication, or body language, is what commands influence here. The way you look, walk, gesture, and make eye contact with others plays a huge part in your message. Researchers have tried to pinpoint just how big a role nonverbal communication plays, and many disagree. But some believe that it makes up 55% of our message.

Building rapport with others will increase your level of influence. Maintaining a positive attitude and likable disposition puts others at ease and allows them to open up to you. It also opens up their mind to accept what you have to say. Pay attention to your demeanor. Do you smile? Are you upbeat and friendly? Does your posture show that you are paying attention and taking an interest in what people are saying? People aren’t likely to be influenced by someone with an annoyed expression and a standoffish disposition. They will be influenced but not in a positive way!

Final thoughts on influence

John Maxwell said, “leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” If you want to do more than just get the job done, if you’re going to be an agent of change in your organization, you’ll begin focusing on how you’re influencing others in the workplace. Influence is more than charisma. It’s not something that you have, or you don’t. Influence is the message you send out to everyone you come in contact with, and that message is up to you.

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