Maximize Your Potential as an Influential Leader

You may have employees who report to you, but are you influencing them in an effective way? It takes certain techniques to enhance your presence in the workplace. Just because you are in a leadership role does not automatically mean you are influential. Don’t fret if you are unsure if your skills are up to par! There are ways to evaluate your influence in the workplace and build your ability to build esteem and magnetism.

Confident business professionals smiling in a meeting, with focus on man in glasses.

What it Means to Be an Influential Leader

Being an influential leader is about getting results out of your work team and being able to effectively stimulate change when needed. Think about leadership as what you do and influence more as who you are. So, what kinds of traits belong to an influential leader?

  • You are positive and happy – charisma is a common trait that people recognize in effective leaders. Being outgoing and positive can improve people’s perception of your ability to lead them. Additionally, you are emotionally mature, which means that you are stable, agreeable, and a hard worker. An emotionally mature leader is not volatile or antisocial, but rather works with people with an element of patience and understanding
  • You embrace change – being accepting of new ideas and being willing to build upon existing methods with innovation and vigor will help improve your image as a leader. Leaders who embrace change encourage forward thinking, take calculated risks, and lead by example
  • You show your team hard work and integrity – studies have shown that both CEOs and employees place high value in integrity as a work trait. If your employees see you as an example of integrity, they are more likely to value your position as a leader and be influenced by you. In addition to modeling integrity, you should also model a high work ethic for your employees
  • You show your employees respect – over 60 percent of employees do not work as hard as they could because of dysfunctional work environments. Be a leader who values and encourages your employees in order to influence them to be the best versions of themselves
  • You continue your development as a leader – effective leaders value feedback and take the time to continually work on management and communication skills

How You Can Bring Your A-Game as an Influential Superior

In order to achieve your goals at work, it’s important that you take steps to evaluate and improve your leadership style. There are several ways in which you can gain respect and increase your influence that center around your behaviors. Think outside the box—you are capable of bringing creativity into being a dynamic leader. Here’s how:

  • Be authentically you – authentic people are trustworthy, seemingly without even having to try. An often overlooked aspect of being a leader is to build other people up by being of service, elevating their voices, and helping them find opportunities for advancement. Not only will this be more satisfying for you, but it will help others establish a sense of trust in you
  • Be a team player – learn how to delegate appropriately so that your team understands that you trust in their abilities. Allow your team to work together to achieve goals. Do not forget that your success is directly tied to your employees’ success
  • Network and connect with other influential people – It is important to connect with other people in your organization and beyond in order to share ideas and to cultivate a network of professional relationships that establishes you as someone to watch. Networking helps leaders advance their career, boosts personal development, and exposes them to new avenues

Manipulation Vs. Influence

Now that you know what makes a leader influential, it is important to consider the differences between influence and manipulation. Manipulative leaders will try to confuse people and use their power to threaten others or manipulate an outcome in such a way that it will only benefit themselves. This will negatively affect your organization because employees will be less motivated and may even underperform due to the stress that is on them from the manipulative boss. Furthermore, if employees do not enable manipulative bosses, conflicts can arise that will reduce productive work time and increase a culture of hostility.

Be sure to check in every now and then to see if you are accidentally being manipulative. Many leaders find that at some point in their careers, they have accidentally been manipulative due to poorly planned work, low quality outcomes in their work, unplanned changes, and things that happened outside the leader’s control. On the flip side, being influential is more about how you can uplift and work with others. You work for the good of your community, rather than solely for your own benefit.

If you find yourself asking the question “what’s in it for me?” then you may have become a manipulative leader and might want to reconsider your leadership style. Other signs that you or someone who you work with has adopted a manipulative leadership style might include: blaming others for problems, withholding information or “playing the silent treatment,” negative displays of emotion, belittling comments, lies and misconstruing facts.

Common Mistakes Leaders Make That Reduce Their Influence

As a leader, you should feel confident in your ability to influence and manage. However, many leaders often find that they are hitting brick walls as they try and improve their workplace influence. Make sure that you are not engaging in any of these common mistakes that will reduce your influence as a leader:

  • Being reactive instead of proactive – make sure that you are embracing innovation and encouraging the creative process for your team. The best leaders proactively explore internal and external sources of new developments and innovations in their industry instead of waiting around for it to come to them
  • Micromanaging – a survey on LinkedIn asked employees to rate the mistakes they see in management most frequently. The number one result? Micromanaging. Leaders who dominate can accidentally derail progress in their work teams
  • You don’t use active listening – communication is one of the most important skills that a leader can have. Effective and influential leaders use authentic and active listening skills to properly engage with their teams. Furthermore, employees who feel heard are more likely to produce high-quality work
  • You do not listen to feedback – how can you expect your work team to listen to your feedback if you are unable to appropriately seek out and listen to feedback about yourself as well? As a leader, your ability to receive feedback from your bosses and employees will affect your workplace culture of trust. Introduce feedback opportunities for your team when you’re engaged in group projects and react with maturity. In a recent study, leaders who ranked in the top 10 percent in requesting feedback were in the 86th percentile for leadership effectiveness.

How to Improve Leadership in Your Workplace

At this point, you may be wondering how you can work to take your influential leadership potential to the next level. Consider what it means to be a transformational leader in the modern age. Transformational leadership focuses on a leader’s responsibility to motivate and uplift their followers, and in the process, help those followers develop their own leadership potential. Remember, being influential is very much about working with not against.

  • Be a positive role model – in terms of transformational leadership, this is called “idealized influence” and it centers around being a person your followers admire
  • Enhance your charisma – otherwise known as “inspirational motivation,” influential leaders inspire and motivate
  • Pay attention to your work team – demonstrating genuine concern for the needs of your work team is also known as “individualized consideration”
  • Inspire innovation – your followers should have a strong sense of purpose which, as their leader, you encourage them to foster. Otherwise known as “intellection stimulation,” you should approach your team with high standards and communicate optimism about their work and your future goals

Next Steps

As you can see, a lot goes into influential leadership. There are endless ways that you can work on your own behaviors and expectations so that you can strengthen your influencing skills. There are also many areas in which you should be aware of the tendency and/or ability to become manipulative without meaning to. Remember, the key is to serve others rather than to only engage in processes that serve yourself and no one else. Keep learning more by taking KnowledgeCity’s course on leadership and influence if you want to take a deeper dive into how you can be the best version of yourself.

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