How you present yourself in a leadership role affects your ability to successfully leverage authority and motivate others. The temptation can be to project yourself as an absolute authority so that your decisions go unchallenged. However, this approach is unlikely to get the results you’re seeking in the modern workplace. True leadership applies influence rather than dictation to inspire a team to achieve more. These leaders can incite action in others simply by mastering the skills of communication and motivation tailored to individuals.
So, how can you spot an influential leader and build your own influence? There are a number of shared traits that influential leaders possess which we explore below.
Don’t mistake humility for weakness. In leadership, humility is a product of diversity. Humble leaders engender trust, empower their followers and look at failures as challenges - all of which leads to greater employee engagement and can be beneficial to the bottom line. Leaders must humbly accept that their perspectives can always be broadened by others, and the best leaders embrace this. No matter how senior you are, there will always be people who can teach you new things. People will always be more understanding, patient and feel more connected with leaders that demonstrate their humble nature and willingness to learn from others, regardless of their title or position.
They’re transparent and authentic
In the age of the digital revolution, there is an even greater need to be transparent and authentic, and this rings particularly true for leaders. Hiding behind a closed office door is no longer an option. Leaders must actively engage their staff in an open and honest manner, share a clear roadmap of where their leadership is taking the team, and practice what they preach. Therefore, strong communication skills are critical for influential leadership. This, of course, includes verbal and non-verbal communication cues like body language, eye contact and active listening.
They value collaboration
Collaboration can lead to greater engagement, influence and the cultivation of an organisational culture that encourages people to work towards a shared vision and goal. Influential leaders value and practice collaborative ways of working, intuitively using their influence to spark collaborative action among those they lead. This contributes to the ever-relevant goal of employee engagement. So, if you’re leading in a silo, you’re missing the boat.
They model high standards
You must become the change you want to see in your team or organisation. A good leadership role model sets high standards of accountability for themselves and their behaviours. They’re self-aware and acquainted with the impact their behaviour has on those around them. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. This is ground zero for establishing influence.
They adapt as required
Adaptability is often labelled one of the most valued leadership skills. In an age of rapid change, how well a leader embraces shifts in the professional landscape and uses them to enhance the organisation’s trajectory can be a vital measure of effectiveness. Influential leaders see change not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity for growth or a window into possibilities. They will practice agility and adaptability when something doesn’t go to plan, adjusting their approach as required. A product of this is that a culture of innovation and engagement can be cultivated, enabling opportunities for learning that otherwise may not have been possible.
They are servant leaders
While leadership in its traditional sense involved the accumulation and exercise of power over others, this is certainly not the approach that reflects today’s workplaces. On the other end of the spectrum is the servant leadership mentality, which promotes sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people to develop and perform. It requires self-awareness and high emotional intelligence, commonalities shared by influential leaders.