Gaining Influence as a Leader

Influence at Work

So, you decide that you want to build additional influence at work.

What’s one to do?

Maybe you want to gain greater influence with a particular group of people, such as your peer group or your team members, or even a group of more senior leaders.  Or maybe you want to exert greater influence over a particular set of issues which matter to you, and over which you feel you have insufficient sway.

Building Influence

Having decided that it is in your best interest to deliberately build influence the starting point for you is to learn about the:

  • Values which drive your own influencing style, and the factors which are likely to gain your positive interest.
  • Factors which influence the key people with whom you want to build influence, especially where these differ from those which matter to you.
  • Ways where you need to use a judicious mixture of fact and opinion to formulate arguments which will prove influential with your colleagues.

Making Sence

Even if your argument makes complete sense in your head you won’t get a hearing if it doesn’t make complete sense to those with whom you want to build influence.  And they may be influenced by completely different things to you. In fact, the very factors which gain your endorsement might actually switch them off.

Consider this:

You want to start a new project and decide to ask for the endorsement of a peer whose favourable opinion would greatly enhance your ability to get the job done.  Your peer is more risk averse, methodical, systematic and detail oriented than you are.

They plan.

They want to find and manage risks in advance of starting off something new and only when they feel that they have a sufficient level of comfort will they agree to go ahead.

Engaging Your Style

Your own style is much more action oriented and initiative than this.  You simply like to start, generate momentum and then trust your resourcefulness to take care of the details along the way.  You rely on your passion and self-confidence, not a plan.

But you recognise that your approach will switch off your peer before you’ve had a proper chance to be heard.

So to gain their favourable interest you need to reign in your enthusiasm, dial back on outlining the exciting opportunities as you see them, and tone down your personal conviction that your plan will work. Instead you need to outline a clear rationale for the project, set out detailed practical steps which you will take to make it happen, explain how you anticipate managing the obvious risks and outline your back up plans for the less likely ones.

And Only Then…

Then you stand a good chance of your peer wanting to listen, and you stand a good chance of them avoiding making the kind of value judgements they might otherwise make should you fail to place your argument to appeal to their values, and position it only to appeal to yours.

A second issue for you to consider as you plan to build influence with your peer is the role of fact and opinion in your argument.  Clearly, what you say and how you say it is a key reason in both gaining and retaining influence with your peer.


  • When to introduce a fact
  • When to give an opinion
  • And over which issues

They are key issues: learned skills.

So are deciding when to be quiet, when to listen, when to ask questions and when to clarify your peer’s verbal previous contributions, perhaps making a distinction between what they consider to be a fact and what is their perception.

Listening to Influence

You can gain significant influence – and credibility – by judiciously combining a factual analysis of the issues under discussion with your opinion about the way forward given those facts.  This combination works so well because it results in you presenting yourself as a professional advisor on the issues under discussion, someone worth listening to and someone who has substance behind their point of view.

In other words, doing things this way means that your argument is worth listening to, as opposed to your persona or organisational authority demands attention.

Building influence takes time, planning and skill. It rarely happens overnight. Those who ‘are influential’ in your workplace have learned how to be over time.

And it is all the more likely that you will gain the greater influence you want to have when you take the time to think through how best to position your proposals so that they have greatest appeal for those whose endorsement you’d like to gain.

Over which issues would you like to build influence?  What specific aspects of these issues do you want to influence? To achieve these specific outcomes, which other colleagues will you need to influence and in what ways?  Which additional colleagues could help you pursue these goals? What role do you want each of them to play? 

Aryanne Oade is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

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1 Comment

  1. Chadwick Taylor on July 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less – John Maxwell. If one does not understand how to build relationships and influence others, they by no means will be able to lead them. Excellent article.