3 Tips on How to Lead by Influence

When a new opportunity was introduced to me a few years ago, the business to consumer model conjured up memories of the door to door Fuller Brush sales man from the 1960’s. Yet, I have always believed in the necessity for multiple revenue streams, and the concept of residual revenue with this business was particularly compelling. Thus, I cast aside the obsolete thinking of yesteryear examples and took the plunge. What has been most surprising to me is what I am learning as a professional and as a human being by engaging in this business. There is no question I am a better person based on the lessons I have learned through my experiences in this business.

One beautiful distinction in this business model from my prior corporate America leadership roles is that we lead strictly through influence. There are no hierarchical reporting structures, enforceable team quotas, or quarterly ‘state of the business’ executive presentations. Each person independently owns their own company, what they desire to create, and how they wish to build their business. Every person is their own boss. Thus, as leaders we lead by example. We must walk the talk. We must show through our actions how to build a business. Leading through influence means we have fostered strong relationships built on trust and respect.

Recalling leaders for whom I had tremendous respect in my previous work experiences, it was always those whom we designated as servant leaders. They were the individuals who always put others ahead of themselves. Their focus was on other’s successes, on paving the way for them, for being there for them in whatever capacity was required…..for serving their team members, their customers, and their peers with purity of intention and clear focus. They knew they were in the people business……helping to grow, nurture, encourage, and support their teams. And by doing so, their team members reached new heights and exceeded their expectations.

I equate leading in this new entrepreneurial business I am building, with many leadership roles I have had in volunteer and charitable causes over the years. Individuals choose to be engaged for their own reasons….their ‘why’…..and by definition, they can choose to disengage just as easily. Our role is not to convince, coerce, or command; it is to help set a vision, and associated goals, for the team and the individual, then support and encourage them along our individual and collective journeys.

That realization is actually true for EVERY business and EVERY leader – regardless of the business model.

So, what are a few strategies to help us all learn to lead by INFLUENCE?

  1. We need to focus on the other person. Net: it is simply not about you! Learning the  “WIIFM” (what is in it for them) is key. Once we know WHY they joined this business. WHAT their needs are. Then, we will know HOW we can support, encourage, and help them get there!
  2. We need to ALIGN with them. Alignment, as most know, is one of my favorite words in life and business. My definition of alignment is when folks love what they do, they are good at it, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, it is tied to something greater than themselves. Our job is to get to know them, understand them, and then to align our approach to them. That will foster ‘going with the flow’ as opposed to fighting upstream. When I have had leaders ‘get me’…..what I love, what I am good at, and why I am doing what I am doing (the ‘tied to something greater than myself’)…..I WANT to help them because they took the time to understand me and why I am doing what I am doing.
  3. Vulnerability is powerful. I have written a number of articles on vulnerability. It takes a very courageous leader to be vulnerable. As leaders, we don’t have to know all the answers (in fact, no one ever does!). And, I believe when leaders put forth an image of self-importance or self-anointed superiority; it shows just a mirage of strength. True strength and power come when the leader is brave enough to admit their vulnerabilities. And when this happens, their team rallies around them and pulls together. I have seen this happen over and over again.

Leading by influence does not have to be hard. In fact, it can be seamless, fulfilling, and energizing for everyone. From my viewpoint, the most vital and necessary skill for ANY leader in any organization – for profit or not for profit – is leading through influence. It is not about selling, persuading, or coercing. It is about building strong, trusted relationships and collectively engaging and collaborating toward a common goal. This ‘new normal’ is not going away….it is going to only increase in importance and necessity.