During some coaching sessions I’ve had lately, I’ve been talking to leaders who’ve been dealing with a common issue: how to get their teams on board. It’s clear that just telling your team what to do generally doesn’t go down well. What you want as a leader is that kind of influence where your team follows your lead naturally. So, how do leaders do it?
Are leaders born and not made? It’s true some people may have a head start due to certain innate qualities, but leadership is a journey that keeps evolving. Certainly, influencing skills don’t automatically come with the new job title. But the good news is you can definitely learn them.
What does influential leadership mean?
Leadership is not about barking orders or constantly convincing your team to follow your lead.
In fact, true leadership is about influence – inspiring your team to align with and commit to the organisation’s goals and mission voluntarily.
That’s where the magic is, where you get everyone pulling in the same direction.
Influence leads to engaged team members, who are not simply doing what’s required – they’re passionately contributing to the team’s success.
Here’s the issue though: Some leaders try to win their team over with facts, rationalising their arguments and perhaps using emotional appeals, and think that’s enough. That’s why, as a leader, it’s important to understand the difference between influencing and trying to convince people.
Convincing people is hard
Convincing your team members rather than using influence can be counterproductive.
Because when you’re essentially pushing against their natural inclinations, this effort can lead to resistance and make them less receptive to your ideas.
Moreover, being convinced or pressured into a decision can leave individuals feeling disempowered and resentful. It’s like a pushy salesperson or a persistent child manipulating you.
Deep down, this can create a negative perception of the person doing the convincing and lead to strained relationships within your team.
Why influencing is better
In contrast, the subtlety of influence often goes unnoticed, allowing ideas to flow more smoothly.
Think of that social media influencer you follow – someone you follow not because they push their opinions forcefully but because you connect with their values, attitudes, and relatable life stories.
When someone is influencing, it’s like you’re going on a journey you signed up for, not one you were dragged into.
This kind of approach makes for a more harmonious team.
How to become an influential leader
The subtle art of influence is something that you learn over time, but I have some important takeaways to bear in mind as you go on your leadership journey.
Demonstrate your trustworthiness to get team on side
Winning your team’s support and respect is essential to being an influential leader and what underpins all of this is trust.
One way to build trust is by sharing your professional story. Open up about your experiences and past accomplishments; this not only showcases your expertise but also conveys that you’ve been in their shoes before. But don’t forget to mention some bumps along the road, like experiences with not-so-great bosses in the past and how it impacted you.
Don’t be afraid to muck-in when needs be, because your team will trust you more when they know that you understand their job and empathise with their needs. (I don’t mean micromanaging or taking over someone’s tasks because you think they’re incapable – that is the exact opposite of leadership!)
Following through on promises is fundamental. Consistently do what you say you’ll do, whether it’s scheduling regular one-on-ones or other commitments. Overcommitting can erode trust, so strike a balance that’s manageable for you.
Lastly, be a real person. Show your team that you have interests and a life outside of work, but no need to overshare your weekend escapades. Strike the balance between being relatable and staying professional.
Building trust takes time, but stay consistent and you’ll be the kind of leader your team can get behind.
Communications that gain respect
Be crystal clear and honest in your communication.
Clearly communicate your team’s goals. Let your team know what you’re working towards and why it matters. When they understand the bigger picture, they are more likely to align their efforts.
When changes are in the air, don’t just dictate; ask for their input, and mean it. Give your team a voice in the decision-making process. This not only shows respect for their ideas but often leads to better solutions.
Be explicit about your expectations for team members. Clarity in roles and responsibilities reduces confusion and fosters a sense of purpose.
Tell your team how you want them to approach you with issues. Create an environment where open and constructive communication is encouraged.
Additionally, keep your team informed about company-wide movements and upper management’s plans. It helps your team feel connected to the organisation’s vision.
Finally, when upper management causes issues, have your team’s back. When they see you advocating for them, they’ll become more than employees; they’ll become champions of your cause. Respect is a two-way street, and as a leader, it’s your responsibility to pave it with honesty, clarity, and unwavering support.
If you need further convincing…
Keep in mind that every leader goes through their own journey of growth and development and becoming a master of influence gets better with time and experience.
The key to rallying your team around your vision is by embodying trustworthiness and unwavering clarity in your intentions and expectations.
So, instead of spinning your wheels trying to convince everyone, focus on forging bonds of trust and understanding.
It’s in this shared sense of purpose and empathy that you’ll find the true power to inspire and lead your team towards success.