What is influence? Why is it important? Is influence a good attribute, or a bad one? Can you learn to be influential, or is it an attribute that cannot be learnt? Most importantly, if it can be learnt, how can you become an influencer? These are some of the questions that probably spun around your mind as you read the title of this post, but I think we have gotten it backwards for the most part! You see, I firmly believe that influence is in everybody, in diverse ways, and for varied reasons. We all can sway influence in one way or another, and yet there are ways in which you will never have any influence at all. The real question to ask is this, how can you discover your influential ability, and put it to appropriate use?
In business, we have wasted far too much time segmenting people into boxes that don’t even exist. Boxes that only stifle creativity, innovation, and leadership. These very boxes are the thing that have prevented people who have mounds of influential ability, from achieving greatness for themselves, and for the organisations they work with.
As I write this, I sit in the marketing office of our building, with the other members of my team sitting around me, each with their own distinct ability to influence within their appropriate area. Each with the opportunity and freedom to ignite thought, share ideas, and cast vision for the team. As the “leader” of the marketing team, I am confident to say that there are areas of what we do that I don’t hold complete influence over, I may hold the final say, but that is backwards thinking. I am surrounded by people who are great at what they do, and better than me thankfully! Why would I stifle innovation by removing their influence? It’s my job to nurture their influence, reveal it to them, and empower them with the freedom to think, be creative, and use their influence to voice ideas that drive change, growth, and innovation for our team, and ultimately our business!
The first step to discovering your influential ability is this. Realise you have one! What do you specialise in? What is your role? What do you bring to the organisation that no one else could? It could be as simple as the length of time you have spent with that organisation. If you have been one of the longest serving members of that organisation, realise this places you in a very useful position. One of insight and understanding that otherwise, cannot be gained. You could be a junior right out of college, or a veteran with years of industry experience, whatever your position, take the time to honestly evaluate yourself, and discover what aspects of your expertise and personality can be positively influential for your organisation. If you really struggle to discover where you add benefit and can drive influence, ask someone else that frequently works with you and you can trust, get an insight from others into what you do. It can be a pleasant surprise to hear what others see in you that you haven’t even noticed.
The reality is, discover an area of your job or role that you are passionate about, and nurture it. Within my team there are individuals with varied forms of influence, from design to strategy, to administration and organisation! Every team needs people who influence in their own way, ways that add depth and integrity to a team. If I was the only influencer in our team, we would be in trouble!
The main reason of this article is this, positive influence leads to great leadership. Leadership is the key to any organisations success and growth! But so many organisations have got leadership all wrong!
- Has nothing to do with seniority.
- Has nothing to do with titles.
- Has nothing to do with personal attributes. (Leadership isn’t an adjective)
- Isn’t management. (shocking I know)
People are leaders, until its squashed out of them, or they are told they’re not by the powers that be! Sometimes the idea of leadership can be squashed out at a scarily early age!! But it’s hard to find a child that doesn’t want to be the main character of their favourite movie! I would encourage you to rekindle the idea that you too are a leader! Maybe not a manager, or on the board of directors, or even over past your early 20’s, but you have something your passionate about, some way in which you can bring positive influence and leadership into the organisation your work for! Again, this could be found in one of the simplest aspects of your role, but even if the smallest of cogs plays a huge role in the smooth running of a great machine!
Last, but not least, the definition of Influence is this;
“the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”
Forbes own definition of Leadership is this:
Find your niche of influence, develop it, gain the insight of others, and be courageous enough to share your thoughts and give input when your area of leadership is required! Even more so, if you currently lead a team, encourage your team to do the same! I can assure you, a team of influencers and leaders is a fantastic way to get stuff done, and get it done better than it has been before!!