“Influence trumps power any day”

In our “Leaders Are…” series, we’ve covered trusting, curious, coaches, self-aware, and are challengers. We’re ready to tap into our influence. What’s so great about influence is that anyone can do it – from managers to genuine leaders to individual contributors and team members.

It’s a skill that does not require positional authority. It’s helpful when managing up, or collaborating with peers and cross-functional teams on a common goal.

Today, many leaders continue to lead through power. Think of power as the tell, not ask, as a commanding, rather than engaging, style of leadership. People usually think of dicta-tors, or managers they did not enjoy working for. And guess what happens when we do not like working for our manager? We do not stay. Studies suggest that 50% to 70% of our engagement is tied directly to our relationship with our manager and our leadership team. Engagement is a significant driver of the productivity, quality, and retention of a team. The business case is clear. Those leaders who engage their team produce better business results. Leading with influence is one way to engage the team.

In my book, Pivot Point, the closing chapter is Lead with Influence. In it, I outline three principles to lead with influence: be vulnerable, give to give, and inspire.

Be vulnerable

We already talked about this in “Leaders Are…Trusting,” but this one takes some time to marinade and really soak in. It’s worth repeating. Vulnerability is relinquishing the hard-earned power. I suspect that’s why it’s so hard for leaders to do; power feels good. After all, leaders are often promoted because they were once the strong individual contributors. After years of having all of the answers and not making mistakes, they earned the power.

It’s tempting to indulge in the power. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. For me, I often describe vulnerability as feeling like I am walking around without clothes on. Being raw. Showing my genuine self. I was leading a workshop with Integrating Woman Leaders Foundation recently and asked the group how they defined vulnerability. Someone raised their hand, and boldly shared, “It’s giving up the right to know it all.” The room quieted and really thought about it. Now, that’s being vulnerable. Saying things like “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake” go a long way with your team. It creates trust, which is the basis for high performing teams.

Give to give

Rather than an exchange, leaders that lead with influence “give to give.” They share resources, information, and their time to help others. Remember the golden rule? Treat others as you would like to be treated. Giving to give is different. It’s treating others as they would like to be treated. It’s not about us. It’s about the audience. Whether that’s your team, your peers, or your manager, make it about them, not you. Simply asking, “how can I help you?” goes a long way. It’s not about what you want, it’s truly about what could benefit the other person. When asked genuinely, the results are staggering. It creates positive karma for the team.

Inspire

As leaders, it’s our job to inspire our team. We do that in a variety of ways. Storytelling is my favorite tool in the inspiration toolbox. It has been a part of human interaction throughout history. Stories help us remember. It paints a picture in our minds that we recall later. Stories also ignite passion. Good leaders do not merely tell us to do something, or just tell us what we did right or wrong, they illustrate it for us. Stories help us understand why we should care and why it is important.

I recently met an organization that focuses purely on storytelling – Speak Your Story. They have a fantastic website that captures the unfiltered stories from the everyday women. They do it because storytelling creates impact. People feel a sense of community as they share the story, and others identify and learn from the story. It’s a give to give that creates that positive karma.

Stories create impact. Let storytelling be one of the many ways we connect with our teams. The next time we communicate information, feedback, or ask our team to do something, brainstorm some stories to share. It will make it more impactful, memorable, and actionable when done well.

There is an adage about leadership I really like. Good leaders leave a legacy. While power hungry leaders usually think that the team will crumble without them, good leaders often think the team will thrive long after they are gone. Those who lead with influence have given their team the tools and thinking necessary to make their own decisions, which has far more sustainable business results. The team continues its positive momentum even when the leader is not present. The team knows how to think independently, make decisions, and take reasonable risks. That’s the mark of a great leader – one who has a legacy.

How will you lead with influence?

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