How To Boost Your Influence

JOHN MAXWELL DEFINES leading as influencing.  President Eisenhower defined it as, “getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  While influence, or persuasion, remains a critical skill, polishing that skill requires some analysis.  We must first learn to identify and then focus on what currently drives others; it is then that your influence is given a boost. 

Identify What’s Important

Unfortunately, the use of a permanent and all-encompassing prime directive that guided Captain Kirk no longer exists. Situations change putting interests in a constant flux and combining both objective and emotional factors.  However, not all factors carry the same weight.  Since some factors are more important than others, what gets top billing will change as circumstances continue to shift.

Influence concept.Understand Current Viewpoints

Understanding current viewpoints and priorities are key to gaining influence. It enables leaders to highlight the benefits being sought while building common ground, rapport, and respect.

For example, why assume that contentious debate is the standard communication practice?  Instead, identify the benefits of another’s perspective first, and then ask for clarification on details in order to build harmony.  It’s important to note if questions come before agreement, a defensive response is less likely. That does not mean that getting onboard with another person’s idea means you neglect or surrender your position. It only shows that you fully seek to understand what is being said, before suggesting alternatives.  It also helps builds reciprocity, or a quid pro quo situation, where ideas can be merged allowing both viewpoints to prevail.

In order to detect current goals, one must be able to analyze the top business issue at hand.  In other words, what keeps you up at night?

Consider these questions to help identify the current priorities:

  1. Is the focal point internal or external to the organization?
  2. Is there a culture of risk taking, or risk avoidance?
  3. Is the focus on standardizing existing practices or improving them?
  4. Is attention focused on the near-term, the long-term or on the past?
  5. Is more attention given to growing with the current business model, or revising it to capture new trends and possibilities?
  6. Is the goal to be a state of the art industry leader, or follow proven paths?
  7. Is flexibility and nimbleness, or consistency preferred?
  8. Is creative or systems thinking more highly valued?

Boost Your Influence, Not Your Ego

An influential leader conceals traces of a personal ego and focuses, instead, on exploring options, evaluating alternatives and assessing risk without confrontation.  They know that working with others, instead of working against them, produces optimal outcomes.  This does not feed the ego, but it does produce results, acceptance, and commitment.  While agreeing first, then analyzing positions runs counter to standard communication practices, it is also the formula for successful results.

Lao Tzu’s definition of great leaders remains valid: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”


Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of "Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.

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  1. Larry,
    Isn’t it interesting how we think that we are “modern” and know so much more than those in the past when many of the great leaders and thinkers in the past saw things we miss or want to avoid? As some search for their 15 minutes of fame, they miss their opportunity to provide a lasting contribution.
    Thanks for the post