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Five Ways To Share Your Leadership Influence

Posted at 8:19 AM on Friday, July 03, 2009

The young leader might not recognize it, and the veteran may no longer think about it, but neither situation obscures the truth: leaders influence all the time.

At one level this makes complete sense. After all, as leaders we are trying to take people towards a desired destination, and since we can't force anyone to do anything (at least not successfully for any extended length of time), we must rely on our ability to influence others to move them towards the goals.

This sort of planned or intentional influence is important, and seldom forgotten, yet it isn't the only influence that matters, nor is it the most common.

The more "everyday" influence is what may be forgotten or ignored because we don't realize the subtle forms influence can take and how pervasive it is.

The reality is that as a leader everything we do is noticed, analyzed, and has meaning placed on it.

Let's look at the five ways all leaders share their influence, intentionally . . . or not.

The Five Influencers

We influence in each of these five ways all the time. The more aware of this we are, the more successful we will be.

Our words. The things we say - and don't say - have a huge impact on the thoughts and behaviors of others. This can take the form of the carefully planned and rehearsed comments of a politician (or of you before a big planning meeting), or the seemingly mundane way we say good morning (or if we say it at all). Everything leaders say plays a part in how successfully their influence moves people in the desired directions.

Our actions. The cliché is that actions speak louder than words. For a leader, this is more than cliché; it is truth. What do you do when someone shares a new idea? How do you we react to the news about a new Customer or a problem? Your team takes cues about the things you place a priority on simply by watching what you focus the most energy/time/attention on.

Our body language. Do you nod your head eagerly or roll your eyes? Do you smile broadly or are you continually wearing a frown? Do you sit alertly in meetings, or lean back in comfort? Those around you are picking up on these cues all day long. The biggest challenge here is that our body language may be misinterpreted - so we must be vigilant and aware of this risk.

Our attitude. Most everyone knows and believes that enthusiasm is contagious, unfortunately, the opposite is also so true. Our attitude is contagious regardless of what it is, especially as a leader. A participant in a workshop once told me, "I can tell if it is going to be a good day based on the supervisor's attitude when he walks in the door." Enough said.

Our decisions. Of course many of our decisions influence people's thoughts and behaviors, but I'm not taking about the overt decisions about actions and directions that we might share in a staff meeting. Rather, I'm talking about the subtle decisions we make that have a direct impact on the other four ways we share our influence.

If I had asked you to come up with the list after reading the title of this article, you likely would have come up with the first four ways. While they are all important, it is the fifth way - influencing through our decisions - that might be overlooked, but arguably is most important because our decisions and choices directly impact the other four influencers.

As a leader we influence, whether we like it not.

The best leaders make decisions to influence positively and constructively and realize that those decisions are the critical first step to making it happen.

Potential Pointer: Leaders are influencing others all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. Remarkable leaders are aware of the subtle ways they influence others and make conscious decisions to make sure they are sharing the influence they want, and need, to be most successful.

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