Before we try to expand it, we need to first define it. What is influence? What does it mean to you?
Dictionary.com says influence is:
(Noun) The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
(Verb) To move or impel (a person) to some action.
Bestselling author John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”
If Leadership is influence then the reverse must also be true, influence is leadership. Or is it? I’d add influence is only leadership when that influence is leading someone towards a positive destination or outcome. After all, influence can go two ways. It can be positive or it can be negative. It can be self serving and manipulative or it can be liberating and uplifting.
Our thoughts and our actions determine which it will be.
Influence comes from more than just our intention to lead or the words that we say as we instruct those who follow, it comes by what people experience and see in us each day. It comes by example and is often witnessed then repeated.
While there are many ways to expand influence, here are 14 various ideas that I believe are a good start:
1. Understand It – First you have to recognize that regardless of your position, you have influence into the lives of those around you. Sometimes we never realize the impact we have on others directly or indirectly but recognizing that we do and conducting ourselves accordingly is key.
2. Be a Person of Integrity and of Values – Let who you say you are be reflected in all that you do. Stay consistent. Don’t take short cuts. Make a stand for your brand and give others an example to follow. Values determine your actions which ultimately determine your influence.
3. Be Authentic and Transparent – Don’t put on a show. Be real. Be honest. Trust is built that way and trust amplifies influence.
4. Accept Responsibility – Don’t make excuses. If you are at fault, accept the blame and do it proactively. Being a leader doesn’t mean being perfect. Learn from mistakes and show others the way.
5. Be a Solution Seeker – Don’t sit around complaining about what doesn’t work or about all the problems around you, instead seek solutions. People are attracted to solution seekers and by being one you will help influence others towards a new perspective.
6. Be Proactive – Don’t sit around expecting someone else to take the lead. If you want to create positive influence then step out. Be the one who generates new ideas, who takes a risk, and who creates movement towards a desired future or outcome.
7. Practice Empathy -Take the time to understand the feelings of others. What motivates them? What do they care about? They won’t care about you and your ideas unless you care about them in return. But here’s the deal… it must be genuine. You really have to care. People are more important than numbers.
8. Appreciate & Recognize Others – A simple THANK YOU goes a long way in person and even further when done publically. Choose to recognize the efforts of others and lift them up as shining examples for others to see. By doing so you are influencing others by reinforcing what works and what was done right. We all want to be valued and appreciated.
9. Respond vs React – People are watching. While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. How you respond is what others see. Don’t react, slow down, take a second and think through your options. When you respond you do so considering the outcome.
10. Bring Out the Best in Others – This should be a no brainer but in order to avoid influence that is self serving and manipulative, you must leverage your influence more for the good of others than for yourself. Pour into those who follow you. Use you influence as a catalyst to spark something bright within someone else. You might see potential in them that they do not. Help them bring it out.
11. Practice the Golden Rule – Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t just read over this as a nice ideal. Put it into practice. If you want grace extended to you, extend it to others. If you want someone to respect you, respect them. It’s reciprocal and it sets an example.
12. Be a Giver – Don’t hoard what you know, share and equip others so that they can build upon the knowledge you’ve acquired. Give freely, give often. Show the way.
13. Go Above and Beyond – Good enough is really not that good at all in many situations. Hold yourself to a higher standard and watch that standard trickle down to others. When we raise the bar by our own actions, we end up challenging others to do the same. Give a little more (time, effort, etc.) and perhaps you’ll encounter those around you giving a little more as well.
14. Have Vision – Proverbs says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is imperative if you are trying to intentionally influence others. You have to know where you are going in order to get others to go there with you. Be clear. Set expectations. Communicate.
Influence is not just one thing. It’s the sum of many and it’s built over time.
As Andy Stanley says, “Leadership is a stewardship … it’s temporary and you’re accountable.”
If we are accountable for our leadership, a.k.a. “our influence,” then we should do everything we can to make that influence count.