Choosing Influence over Authority to Do More with Less
For much of the twentieth century, businesses used a top-down approach to organization. Employees in an upper management position had authority over workers down the chain. In some cases, this arrangement led to tyrannical managers who used their power to hire and fire as leverage to get work done.
Flexing your authority may be a necessary tactic in a crisis, but more businesses are seeing the wisdom of developing influential leaders. Leaders with the soft skills to persuade and inspire are more likely to receive higher performance, greater commitment and longer tenures from their team members.
Traits of an Influential Leader
Some people are born leaders. They bring a charismatic personality along with the ability to articulate a clear vision. People are more receptive to a leader whom they like and admire. You may not have been born with all the traits of an influential leader, but you can develop them over time.
Leading others through influence involves passion. Your team members assume that you are an expert in your field who will do the necessary work with focus and zeal. Passion is contagious, and employees will mirror the enthusiasm of their leader.
Responsibility and Self-Motivation
In a top-down authority structure, those beneath the leader typically receive the blame for failed projects. Influential leaders take responsibility for their mistakes and work with the team to grow from them. Such leaders know how they fit into the organization, and the rest of the team can count on them to honor their commitments.
Influential leaders know their limits and hire employees accordingly. They have the confidence necessary to admit when someone else on the team has expertise. In this way, they demonstrate how to lead a leader and cultivate leadership within the team.
There can be a fine line between micromanagement and engagement. Influential leaders are aware of how a project is unfolding, but they do not control every step. Often, the leader gathers information by asking questions in an informal conversation with employees rather than disrupting the day with formal meetings.
A Role Model
Influential leaders provide leading examples for their teams. By reliably carrying out their parts of projects, they develop credibility and trust. Engaging other team members with a hands-off approach fosters an atmosphere of creativity and productivity.
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Traits of an Influence-Centered Workplace
Your workplace culture will reflect the example you set as a leader. An office is a place of business, but it does not need to be a place that employees endure for the sake of a paycheck. Influential leaders develop an atmosphere that brings the best performance from staff members.
Strong, authority-centered structures tend to use fear and anger as motivators. Employees will meet goals to avoid negative consequences. In this workplace, employees frequently trigger the stress response as they try to struggle with tight deadlines or quotas. Work is exhausting, and they can hardly wait to leave at the end of the day.
Low stress does not mean unproductive. Instead of fear, employees work with a shared vision. The influential leader sets the example, and the others follow. Leaders who listen will also acknowledge the realities of life. Long-term employees should not be nervous about asking for extra time to do a better job.
Empowering Curiosity and Creativity
In a low-stress environment, employees have the freedom to experiment in ways that can improve productivity. One of the most important leading examples is acknowledging mistakes and failures gracefully. Influential leaders know that failure can teach as many lessons as success. Employees in such a workplace are encouraged to learn more about their fields and look for innovative solutions to daily problems.
Neurological hormones shape the way that people feel. The anxiousness of stress stems from hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Feelings of satisfaction and reward come from the release of dopamine and serotonin. When employees feel appreciated and know that they are engaged in meaningful work, it triggers these positive hormones. As employees begin to associate positive feelings with the workplace, they will grow in enthusiasm for their jobs.
Influential leaders recognize that things can always be better. They are constantly on the lookout for ways to streamline processes and encourage team members to embrace innovation. Instead of dwelling in the comfort of what they have always done, they seek innovation to do it better.
In an influence-centered workplace, team members trust that their opinions matter. They are free to discuss and even disagree with leadership. The group recognizes that every team member brings different gifts and expertise.
Secrets for Establishing Your Influence
Leading others effectively requires improving your soft skills and reframing your understanding of authority. Pursuing these changes will improve the productivity and general atmosphere of your business.
Listen to Your Staff
People are willing to listen when they feel heard. There is much more to the life of an employee than what you read on a job application. When an employee speaks to you, put down whatever else you are doing and pay respectful attention.
Observe Patterns and Preferences
As you move from station to station at your workplace, take time to notice what is happening. How do your employees approach the task at hand? Some people are content when working alone, and others thrive with a partner. Employees will feel appreciated when you take these natural patterns into account.
Align Their Passions with Your Vision
Once you learn more about your staff members, it is time to bring them on board with your vision. If you can make connections with your mission and their passions, you will find that there is greater excitement about the job. Rather than employees who work for you, you will develop team members who promote your vision.
A Helpful Resource for Leading Others
At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, my focus is on helping entrepreneurs become the best leaders they can be. If you wonder how to lead a leader or grow in your personal leadership style, I can provide tools and training to get you on your way. Feel free to reach out for an initial consultation.