Success in any area of life, indeed success in every area of your life, is dependant on your ability to influence others.
To define influence we might say it is the ability to change others people’s thoughts, beliefs or actions. Your success as an influencer of people is one of the most predominate talents you need to master to become a truly effective leader or to experience comprehensive achievement in any area of your life.
We learn to influence from our first moments, a baby cries and demands attention, a small child tries many different exhaustive avenues to gain what it wants. As we grow we perhaps become more subtle and sometimes our belief in our ability to influence others can become diminished. But the power is still there, perhaps needing some fine-tuning and development, but still there.
We all need to succeed in relationships to further our own goals; we need to influence board members, customers, employees and family members. Does this sound manipulative? No, often our motives are sound and our direction correct. We just need to learn how to capture the desire for people to follow us through their own thoughts desires and actions. So how do we persuade people to change their point of view and start to value ours? To lead the way we must have followers. We cannot decide to become a leader but we can decide to become the kind of person people will want to follow. On the understanding that we lead people, not businesses or organisations we must look towards the two factors of human psychology, the conscious and the unconscious mind. To motivate and understand people we must reach them on a conscious level through their minds but also appeal strongly to their emotions through their unconscious.
We must learn to secure the hearts and the minds of the people we would have follow us or be influenced by us.
It is a universal truth that people make their decisions based on emotions but they justify them with logic.
People follow the person they recognise as further ahead then them, more knowledgeable then themselves, the kind of person they aspire to be, the one they want to emulate.
Often the title of leader is misunderstood; a leader is not a manager who demands power through their rank or place within a company. Demanding respect because you are in a position of hard power may get people motivated through fear to behave in the way directed or to get a job done. A true leader is one who leads through soft power. Through the desire of the follower to change their thoughts and beliefs. Soft power wields the true power to motivate an individual to stay loyal to a company, to a vision, to a belief.
The truly successful individual leads through the soft power. Of course, it must make sense, it has to be cognitive, it has to work but people who buy into the soft power are more likely to stay loyal, they buy into the whole mission, the vision they will be passionate about their work. They are less likely to suffer ‘burn out’ they will be better team players. They will be there for the long haul. They are lead willingly. Cognitively agreeing to it but emotionally following.
People will follow the person with character and skills. To be our most effective selves we must concentrate on these two skills. One cannot be effective without the other. Without the skills, one will not inspire belief and trust that you will be able to see any project, and its followers through. However, in numerous surveys it is found that for 90% of people character is more important than skills. What character skills do people follow? Integrity, generosity friendliness, gratitude, attitude, the list goes on. High on the list of desirable qualities is integrity.
The belief that you can be trusted, that when you make a promise, when you set a vision the people around you can believe that it will happen, that you have their best interests in mind, that a stated belief is truly what you believe. These are all parts of integrity.
Who you are as a person matters most to the people who will follow you. Living your life as a whole with integrity in all areas is important to people you would have followed you, less than that will erode the trust. It is not about always ‘getting it right’ but it is about the ability to show a human side, frailty and all.
Influence is always about relationships. Character and skills together will make for a hugely powerful natural leader.