Skills To Acquire If You Want To Become An Influential Leader At Work

A guide to developing the key skills needed to build and expand your influence at work

Skills To Acquire If You Want To Become An Influential Leader At Work
How to become an influential leader

Leaders have an outsized influence on the success of their teams. Their words and actions can either increase trust or provoke insecurity; encourage collaboration or create silos; promote accountability and ownership or create a culture of fear and blame. In other words, their influence can make or break teams, and eventually organizations.

Being an influential leader is a skill set. It’s about merging technical competence with certain behavioral attributes. Skills related to influential leadership can be developed over time. If you’re curious about how to become an influential leader, we have curated a list of actions you can take to develop those skills right away!

  1. Make people feel safe and included

The first skill of an influential leader is the ability to make people feel safe. Such leaders recognize that every colleague has their own personal beliefs, experiences, and expectations. This means that the latter’s opinions or ideas might differ from those of the leader or other team-mates. Leaders who want to wield influence are accepting of such differences, and try to create consensus through discussion instead of bluntly resorting to rejection or punishment.

By accepting diverse viewpoints, leaders make their colleagues feel secure and safe. This prevents resentment and improves collaboration and team-bonding.

2. Recognise people’s contributions

‘Praise in public, criticise in private’ is a fundamental tenet of leadership. It makes employees feel loyal to their leader, and over time, builds the latter’s reputation and influence within the organisation and industry.

Good leaders make it a point to vocally acknowledge good work by their colleagues. Even when the feedback is negative, leaders provide clear direction without making personal attacks. They collaborate with their employees to set realistic and achievable goals. They also celebrate the attainment of team goals. All this motivates people to push their own limits in the future.

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3. Build trust

Any good leader knows the value of building trust with their employees. To build trust, leaders have to get certain basics right: fulfill their promises to their teams; stand by the team in difficult times; admit to their own mistakes; and act with genuine intention.

It may sound like a lot, but trust cannot be built overnight. It is the sum total of consistent efforts and actions by the leader. In many animal societies, leaders have influence only as long as they look out for the group’s best interests and protect it from starvation or predators. In the corporate world, influential leaders are those who look after their people, model trust-worthy behaviors, and fulfill their commitments to them.

4. Leverage your influence to benefit your team

Influence is not something leaders should hoard. It only pays off when leaders use their influence to benefit those around them – especially the people they work with.

Leaders leverage their reach and connections with the rest of the organization to benefit their teams. This could be in the form of connecting people to opportunities – in the form of onsite projects, upskilling workshops, cross-team projects, etc. It could also be related to presenting colleagues’ achievements to senior management, nominating them for industry awards or competitions, or getting them the right mentors to help their journey.  

Doing this bolsters the team’s growth and gives them a strong reason to stay with the leader and the organization.

5. Show your passion

The more passionate and enthusiastic a leader is, the more his/her employees will look towards them for guidance and advice. A passionate leader is someone who is always fully invested in every task, shows up for every important occasion, and goes ‘above and beyond’ what’s expected of him/her. They are also great at showing their colleagues the larger picture of what the team or company is trying to do, in service of its overall goal.

True passion is an attractive trait in any field. Leaders who are internally driven are therefore magnets for others who want to also mirror their traits and their achievements.

Skills of influential leadership: winding up

Incorporating the above behaviors into your leadership style will get you started on the road to becoming a more influential leader in your organization. Remember that influence also comes with responsibility. Hence, make sure that you use the trust and loyalty of your team for the organization’s collective benefit and not to achieve narrow personal goals.  

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