Dr. Cara Gomez discusses how to be an effective leader even if you are not in a senior management position. Many great leaders never had the title of leader but made huge impacts in their sphere of influence. Discover practical approaches to lead from any where.
Catalina was hired as a department manager of a national home improvement store. Her senior managers dictated the vision and work plans of her department. But her department had higher production rates and lower employee turnover rates compared to other departments in her store. What was Catalina doing differently?
Kwame owned a small, privately labeled distillery and was known by everyone one in his community. He had established a community business bureau and networking group. Working with the city council, Kwame spear-headed a grant submission to bring revitalization funds for small businesses. How was he able to accomplish this?
Catalina was not high in the highest leadership ranks at her company, and Kwame had no assigned responsibilities for his community work, yet they were both highly successful in their spheres because they knew this one fact:
Leadership is about influence, not the job title.
One common definition of leadership is “intentionally influencing another individual or group in order to accomplish a goal.”
The great thing leading through influence is that anyone can be a leader, regardless of whether or not they hold an official leadership position. While someone may not have the authority to direct or command, a person can use their influence, in many different ways to guide or sway others or situations.
A great leader is able to enthusiastically and vividly share a vision and influence various stakeholders by collaborating, negotiating, and sharing ideas in work, social, or community environments to meet their goals.
Below are ten ideas of how to strategically influence those around you, regardless of your leadership position. These principles can apply to those with and without leadership job titles and those in social sectors or community organizations.
Articulate the Vision
Begin by identifying the end goal. Who are you trying to influence and where are you trying to go?
Are you on a committee and have strong opinions about the direction you need to head? Do you have ideas to help your department be successful? Do you know how your plant could improve productivity? Do you wish to impact the lives of teens in a non-profit? Do you have a vision for outreach for your church?
If you are not in a leadership position, you will need to first ascertain the organization or your supervisor’s vision. Is your vision the same or different? If it is the same, you can be an influencer by being a catalyst and propelling organizational momentum toward the shared vision. If your vision is different, its ok! This is where your influencing skills will come into play.
Comparing your vision to your organization’s vision be difficult if the organization does not have a strong vision, has difficulty articulating their vision, or changes their vision often. Perhaps helping your organization or department identify and articulate a shared vision is the place to start.
See end of this article to download a New Reality Leadership Module that will provide practical, actionable ideas and tools to help you make your vision come alive for employees.
Creating a Compelling Vision
To accomplish your vision, who do you need to influence? A board of directors, senior leaders or a manager? Subordinates, parents, financial donors, committee members, or community members?
Think broad: go past the key decision makers and consider those who will benefit (or be impacted), oppose, could influence the outcome, or would be responsible for enacting or financing the vision. Sometimes a simple concept map may help you brainstorm relevant stakeholders.
No one accomplishes their vision on their own. Of all the stakeholders you just identified, who do you think would be excited about your vision? Talk to them. Communicate your ideas and where you think the organization or committee or idea should head. Who in your state or globally has a vision similar to yours? How can you partner to work together?
In addition, think about who might benefit the most from your vision? Be excited and describe what you are thinking, and what they would gain from helping you. Do others have a similar vision as you?
Look for Win Wins
Often, others don’t care about your specific vision or passion. One way to help someone become invested in your goals to make it beneficial for them as well. Look for opportunities where your goal helps someone else meet their goals. To do this, you need to be aware of others’ visions. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has many great suggestions for working with other people to accomplish your end goal. One way to identify others’ goals or priorities is to be a good listener.
Listen More Than You Speak
A good rule of thumb is to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Listen to others’ ideas and dreams. What are they passionate about?
What are your employees passionate about? They probably have great ideas on how to improve the department. Do you need to reduce waste, improve customer service, or decrease output timelines? If you ask enough questions to your front line employees, you will gain valuable information. What are your employees passionate about? Employees will work harder if it is towards goals or projects that they are passionate about.
What goals do others have for your community or business or committee? Can you act as a catalyst to help them reach their vision? If they have goals similar to yours, join forces.
"Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another."
Use your words carefully, all of the time. Conversations at the water cooler or in the stands of a little league game have the potential to be just as important as a program proposal or motions made in a committee meeting. Take advantage of all opportunities to influence others.
Be careful about complaining--whether at work or in the community. Find positive ways to describe your situations. Default toward talking about your ideas or solutions to improve the organization rather than complaining.
Persuade Others Toward Your View
When speaking to others about your vision, work on being articulate, persuasive, and enthusiastic. Tailor your discussions to the situation and know your audience.
Will the people you talk to want to know about facts and numbers? Or do they want stories or human impact anecdotes? Do you need to spell out the bottom line first, or lead up to it by presenting the background? Be observant in your surroundings.
Get a feel for what your direct supervisor’s communication preference is. Look how others on the committee communicate. Try to discern the best approach for each individual or situation where you are discussing your vision. It’s not only about your words because your actions are vital.
Influence by Serving
Often, the best way to influence others is to serve and empower them. What resources do they need to be successful? Other times, to accomplish a vision, someone has to do to the grunt work. Great leaders are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Practice What You Preach
You will have a difficult time influencing others if your actions don’t back up your words. Do you want to begin a mentoring program for new associates? You should be a mentor, even if there is not a formal process. Do you think the culture of your organization should include more transparency? You should be forthcoming and open yourself.
Measure the Results
Identify key indicators and measure them on a consistent basis. Use visual scoreboards to keep all stakeholders informed of progress. Do you wish to decrease waste at a factory? Find a way to post daily waste data. Are you trying to increase student retention? Post annual retention numbers. Especially ensure that the front line employees can view the scoreboard.
What Were Catalina and Kwame Doing Differently?
Catalina had looked up the vision for her company and then tailored the vision for her specific department. She reminded her employees of the vision daily. She also created a visual board near the department kiosk that tracked the customer service and productivity data on a weekly basis. Each week, she held a meeting to ask the employees what small changes they could enact within the department to meet their goals.
Kwame had started by hosting small business mixers at his distillery. He spent a lot of time asking the other business owners about their vision and passions. He was also enthusiastic and descriptive of his vision—a revitalized downtown with thriving small businesses. Kwame also sought out allies in the city hall who had a financial interest in seeing more businesses in their town.
Being a good leader like Catalina and Kwame is about more than a title. It boils down to how well you can influence those around you to meet your vision.
How to Be “A Great Leader” Even When You Are Not “The” Leader Summary
- Articulate the Vision-What are you trying to influence someone (or a group) to do?
- Identify Stakeholders-Who will benefit, oppose, or influence the goal?
- Find Allies-Look for people who will collaborate with you towards your vision
- Listen More Than You Speak-Whose visions align with yours?
- Look for Win Wins-Look for solutions where you can meet your goal while helping other meet theirs
- Persuade Others Toward Your View-Work on logic and emotion appeals
- Words Matter-Choose your words carefully. All of the time.
- Lead by Serving-Be willing to hard work.
- Practice What You Preach (Modeling Behavior)-Your vision should be substantiated by your actions
- Measure the Results-How close are you to reaching your vision?
- In what area of your job, organization, or community do you seek to be (or are you) a leader, even if you do not have an actual leadership position?
- Who are the key stakeholders you need to influence to meet your vision?
- In the next month, what methods will you use to influence key stakeholders for the vision or change you wish to see in your job, organization, or community? How will you know if you have influenced them (what are your measuring metrics)?
- On a scale of 1-10, how persuasive do you perceive yourself to be? What can you do to improve your ability to persuade others?
- How can you identify others’ goals and leverage their passions to work toward your vision?
Additional Free Leadership Content
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Creating a Compelling Vision and Making the Business Visible.