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Influence is crucial for successful leadership

Influential leaders know how to use their position wisely to secure outcomes enabling them to cut through the noise and make change happen.

Leaders today are expected to deliver more results in a faster timeframe and with less resources. There are often endless meetings, countless stakeholders to consult and shifting goal posts.

The result is a working environment that is more complex and bureaucratic, often with little progress.

The respected former CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, said, “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.”

In organisations this happens every day, and it’s made worse when you can’t influence those around you. Leaders who can’t build support for initiatives and get things done are quickly left behind.

However, you can’t rely on traditional hierarchies to get things done anymore, because the organisational dynamics are different. It’s critical to understand who influences whom, how decisions are made and what avenues exist to make progress and influence outcomes.

This is about understanding the influencing factors operating in the ‘organisational system’ and having the nous to find the ‘back door’ and leverage the informal networks through which decisions are often made.

Collaboration is critical

Influential leaders know how to get things done through other people and are aware of the environment in which they are operating.

They do this in a way which is highly consultative and collaborative, knowing they will only secure sustainable change and progress if their stakeholders are involved and buy into it.

Being able to influence effectively helps you get heard and to get initiatives across the line. It is a force for good when it is used to ensure better organisational decisions.

In contrast, managers who struggle to influence often resort to hierarchical power plays – seeking to wield power over people. However, by trying to force decisions with little consultation, they end up with little buy-in and ultimately suboptimal outcomes.

Influence isn’t a solo pursuit

An effective leader knows they can’t do it alone. They need each team member operating effectively and being their best so the team collectively makes progress. To do that, the team members also need to be able to influence.

This means the team members are coached and supported so they can understand what triggers and drives their behavior, and are equipped to manage their own behavioural responses. Consequently, they then have the capability to:

  • Build awesome stakeholder relationships
  • Create coalitions of support for change
  • Communicate in an authentic and compelling manner
  • Negotiate important decisions

If a leader wants to get more traction and make faster progress, they want their team to be able to influence just as much as they need to be able to influence.

This is influence that is focused on ensuring balanced outcomes, considering the needs of all stakeholders. In this way, the art of influence becomes a competitive advantage for the whole team and of benefit to the organisation.

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