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Misconceptions About Influence
And the most important thing to consider
When we think of leadership influence likely comes straight to mind. Influence is the competency from my leadership competencies model that folks talk to me about the most. It’s not surprising given that leader’s most important work lies at the organizational level where influence is critical.
Often they want to know how to have more influence outside of their area. Sometimes they wonder if they’ve hit a wall, or have gone as far as they can because they think they’re not good at influence. They want to know if they need a personality transplant or if they should give up leadership altogether.
Often what they’re pointing to are common misconceptions about influence:
Running others over
Being the loudest voice in the room
Having a big personality
These behaviors don’t equate to effective influence, especially the first six. Most of these are ego-based or unconscious habits rather than influence; few produce positive results. When acting this way we might get our way by running others over or by wearing them down but we’ve won through brute force rather than influence.
So what is influence?
There are three main components to influence:
Getting others onboard without using positional authority
Knowing what’s important to an audience and adjusting communication to match
Aligning individuals and groups around key organizational initiatives
Influence is about relationships
Strong relationships are the most important building block for this leadership competency. You might wonder where to start. Focus on relationship-building skills like creating trust and psychological safety, and practice listening more than you talk.
If you do this, you’re already on your way to developing strong relationships that will serve you, them and the organization well.
One more thing,
I want to dispel one last misconception — to influence we must give speeches or presentations on a stage. Sometimes we influence through an all-hands presentation or a big talk but it’s not the only way we bring people along. Sometimes those with the biggest impact are the quietest person in the room. If you aren’t comfortable giving talks or rah-rah speeches don’t fear or buy into those misconceptions. You can be an effective leader. You can influence just as you are, no personality transplant needed.
PODCAST EPISODE OF THE WEEK
For the last nine months I’ve been helping my parents transition into the next phase of their lives. I wrote a bit about this experience in Traversing the Neutral Zone. I’ve been longing to feature a leader who is leading while taking care of a parent. I was thrilled when I discovered that Nivia Henry, Director of Engineering at Spotify is having this exact experience.
We talked about the importance of filling your own cup, not just taking care of others, how she models this as a leader, and finding community. It was one of the most soulful conversations I've had in a long time. I'm grateful it was recorded.
Tune into episode 12 of Leaders Unscripted to learn how Nivia elegantly balances leading her team through innovation of the highest level while caring for her mother. I think you’ll enjoy hearing about Nivia’s experience and the wisdom she’s acquired along the way.
Here are two small snippets from our conversation.
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