Before trying to extend it, we must first define it. What is influence? What does this mean for you?
Dictionary.com says influence is:
(Noun) The capacity or power of persons or things to be an imperious force or to produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
(Verb) To move or urge (a person) to an action.
Best-selling author John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, no more, no less.”
If leadership is influence, the reverse must also be true, influence is leadership. Where is it? I would add that influence is only leadership when that influence leads someone to a positive destination or outcome. After all, influence can go two ways. It can be positive or negative. It can be selfish and manipulative or it can be liberating and uplifting.
Our thoughts and actions determine what it will be.
Influence comes from more than our intention to lead or the words we say when instructing those who follow, it comes from what people experience and see in us every day. It comes for example and is often seen and then repeated.
While there are many ways to expand your influence, here are 14 ideas that I think are a good start:
- Understand it
You must first recognize that regardless of your position, you have an influence on the lives of those around you. Sometimes we never realize the impact we have on others, directly or indirectly, but it is essential to recognize what we are doing and conduct ourselves accordingly.
- Be a person of integrity and values
Let who you say you are be reflected in everything you do. Stay consistent. Don't take shortcuts. Showcase your brand and set an example for others to follow. Values determine your actions which ultimately determine your influence.
- Be authentic and transparent
Don't show off. Be real. Be honest. Trust is built this way and trust amplifies influence.
- Accept responsibility
Don't make excuses. If you are at fault, accept blame and do it proactively. Being a leader does not mean being perfect. Learn from your mistakes and show others the way.
- Be a solution seeker
Don't sit around complaining about what isn't working or all the problems around you, look for solutions instead. People are attracted to solution seekers and by being one you will help influence others towards a new perspective.
- Be proactive
Don't expect someone else to take the lead. If you want to create a positive influence, get out there. Be the one who generates new ideas, takes a risk and creates movement towards a desired future or outcome.
- Practice empathy
Take 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 has to be genuine. You really have to care about that. People are more important than numbers.
- Appreciating and recognizing others
A simple THANK YOU goes a long way in person and even more when done publicly. Choose to recognize the efforts of others and elevate them as shining examples for others to see. By doing so, you influence others by reinforcing what works and what has been done well. We all want to be valued and appreciated.
- React vs React
People are watching. Although you can't always control your situation, you can control how you respond to it. How you respond is what others see. Don't react, slow down, take a second and think about your options. When you answer, you do so taking into account the result.
- Bring out the best in others
It should be a given, but to avoid selfish and manipulative influence, you need to leverage your influence more for the good of others than for yourself. Pour into those who follow you. Use your influence as a catalyst to spark something brilliant in someone else. You might see potential in them that they don't see. Help them bring it out.
- Practicing the Golden Rule
Treat others as you want to be treated. Don't just read this as a beautiful 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 is reciprocal and it sets an example.
- Be a giver
Do not store what you know, share or equip others to build on the knowledge you have gained. Give freely, give often. Show the way.
- Going Above and Beyond
Good enough really isn't good at all in many situations. Hold yourself to a higher standard and watch this standard spread to others. When we raise the bar through our own actions, we end up challenging others to do the same. Give a little more (time, effort, etc.) and maybe you will find those around you giving a little more.
- Have a vision
Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, people perish.” This is imperative if you are trying to intentionally influence others. You need to know where you are going so that others go with you. To be clear. Set expectations. Communicate.
Influence is not just one thing. It is the sum of many and it builds over time. As Andy Stanley says, "Leadership is stewardship...it's temporary and you're in charge." If we are accountable for our leadership, i.e. "our influence", then we must do everything to make this influence count.
And you? What else would you add to this list?