How Do the Best Leaders Build Influence?

Professional Development Series Part 4

It’s time to wrap up our Professional Development Series. In our latest posts, we’ve been discussing leadership ideas, many of which have been centered around how you interact with your organization and your team.

Check out our thoughts on conflict resolution, staff performance, and team building.

We know your work reaches far beyond the walls of your organization. You are community leaders, organizers, and overall change makers. And to be that, you need to be able to influence effectively.

The Idea

The word influence can, unfortunately, have a negative connotation because people may mistakenly confuse it with manipulation. Manipulation presents a false or misleading appearance with an intention to deceive.1 Influence comes from a place of honest strength, and a genuine desire to guide decisions and processes in a way to create the best possible outcome for everybody.

Think of the influencers in your life. You trust them. They’re positive. They’re creative. They provide solutions. They work hard. They collaborate. They want what’s best for all.

The Practice

You will only be able to have an effect on someone or influence them if they trust you. Period. So the question of how to influence really starts with, “How do you build trust?”. Here are some everyday practices to do just that. Notice the word “everyday”…

  • Do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Promptly respond to issues presenting now, and plan for the future. People trust those who are forward-thinking and can anticipate strong solutions for what’s to come.
  • Be transparent, even if it makes it more complicated. A genuine dialogue won’t unfold if someone suspects they don’t have the whole picture.
  • Include all necessary partners and stakeholders. An influencer works to engage others’ needs and opinions into possible plans or solutions.
  • Volunteer to take on the work. Do you have a passion for a particular project or initiative? Volunteer to chair the committee or write up the business plan. It will put you at the center of the conversation and show others you’re willing to work hard for what’s important to you.
  • Use your title wisely. Authority is not the same thing as influence. Assigning someone a task is not influence. Influence is bringing others on board willingly. Titles are irrelevant.
  • Display a willingness to communicate your opinions assertively and clearly. Don’t beat around the bush, nor beat your ideas over others’ heads.

Further Study

  • There’s a significant amount of research around the interpersonal side of influence. For a short, enlightening read, check out this piece from Entrepreneur Magazine.
  • Influencer, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey


1Business Dictionary: Manipulation