How To Become Influential Even Without A Team
Whether you want to leave a global legacy like Nelson Mandela or you want to leave a legacy within your organization or community, many of us have aspirations of being influential. Now with influence comes leadership. And leadership doesn't necessarily mean that you have direct reports.
But what if you ended up in a leadership position that you had not prepared for? What do you do? It could come as an unexpected promotion because your boss jumped ship, or you could be a new entrepreneur, or your community might decide that you are their next chairperson. And while you settle in your new role you find challenges that make you realize that you need to brush up on your leadership skills.
Or you could be one to decide that you want to exercise your leadership skills before you have anyone reporting to you. How can you go about it?
Many before us have modeled the example of great leaders. Some we can emulate and some are hard to match. I mean, take the example of Nelson Mandela, he was a revolutionary leader, a national activist, a prisoner, a president, and a humanitarian champion. His legacy continues to impact millions even in death.
I learned about Nelson Mandela when I was very young. I was born almost 9-years after he was sentenced to life. But because of his conviction to fight for freedom at whatever cost, he made such an impact on me at such a young age, maybe because I felt sorry for his wrongful imprisonment. But especially that he could give it all up to stay in prison to fight for what's right. Might I add that I have the privilege of being friends with his granddaughters? And this friendship earned me an invitation to attend his 80th birthday in South Africa. After impatiently waiting for 2-hours, he walked into the VIP suite at the Jo'burg stadium where tens of thousands were waiting to get a glimpse and celebrate him. I was beyond elated to be standing maybe 5 feet away from him! I couldn't even describe what I was thinking or feeling at the time. His humility made his presence so grand that you would think I was in the presence of one of God's angels.
Now, Nelson Mandela's story is difficult to match. And yet there are others around the world who are trying to do the same because he had an impact on who they are today.
Nonetheless, we can all agree that to be influential you have to earn the respect of others. And whereas each leader needs to find a style that works for them, there are some fundamental basics that can get you close.
I’ll share five qualities that will help you inspire motivation in others.
Tip #1 - Master Your Emotions
You may ask, what do emotions have to do with anything? Well, I have had to learn this the hard way. Back in 2016, I was going through serious emotional turmoil. I suffered burnout in my previous business so I left. Many of my intimate relationships seemed to be falling apart after that decision. I couldn't help myself. As I desperately searched for help I found Brooke Castillo's podcast that spoke a great deal about managing emotions. I binge-listened, got hooked, and eventually decided to sign up for her coach certification. Little did I know that it was the key to solving my problems. I quickly learned that our emotions cause our actions. That no one was responsible for how I felt so I shouldn't just anyone for how they treated me. Since getting into this work, I have had the opportunity to get on many stages and speak to hundreds about mastering their emotions.
Scientific journalist, author, and psychologist, Daniel Goleman, popularised the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) in 1995, in his book EmotionalIntelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He argues that...
“If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
Tip #2 - Listen With Your Heart To Speak With Your Heart
"Prepare your heart and mind before you prepare your speech. What we say maybe less important that than how we say it" says Stephen Covey.
Lately, the world is crazy with empathetic leadership, even more so during and after the pandemic. American Professor and best-selling author, Brenè Brown has made a killing teaching leaders how to be vulnerable so they can rise to empathetic leadership. Not because it's an easy sell, but because leaders want what she has to offer. She has spent 20-plus years researching courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She argues that "we desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear."
People who connect with themselves at such a level find it a lot easier to influence others. It almost comes naturally. They do not have to win anyone over. They just lead and others follow.
Tip #3 - Be Authentic
Authentic is quite the buzzword nowadays. You've probably heard too much of it. Do you often wonder why we have to be reminded to be authentic? J.F. Kennedy certainly did not need to be reminded. Neither did Martin Luther King Junior and neither did Donald Trump! Whereas Trump has a mountain of unpopular votes around the globe, I am certain that this is one of his greatest qualities that attract a following. Great or not! So if you want to be the sponge that sucks up everyone’s intrigue and have them glued to you for inspiration then you must find your authentic compass. Authentic is easy. You do not have to put effort into various appearances that don’t belong to you. You are comfortable showing up both with your brilliance and errors because you believe in the power of being simply human.
Tip #4 - Work On Your Likeability
Perhaps Trump and Elon Must may laugh at this. In fact, some may argue that "I don't have to be liked to get results." Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business argues that a high DQ is just as important in order to complete the ‘triple-threat-leadership capabilities’. His triple threat leadership capabilities include a high Intellectual Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Decency Quotient (DQ). Humans are easily influenced by people they like. Can you learn to be liked? Of course, you can. There’s nothing that the human brain cannot handle. Although the process might come with some hard-to-swallow feedback from those who are afraid of seeing you change. Working on your likeability takes a lot of courage. Do not judge yourself. Simply open yourself up to developing qualities that make you likeable.
Tip #5 - Allow For Autonomy
Lastly, everyone who looks for meaningful work almost always wants autonomy. If you desire it, so does everyone around you. Allow them to figure out their mistakes and solutions. They’ll be grateful for the growth opportunity. It makes them feel trusted. Besides, you do not have to do everything. You need a break from the minute decisions. Trust in their abilities and they’ll trust in your leadership.
Don’t Forget to Add a Closing Statement
And as I mentioned earlier you do not have to have direct reports in order to be influential. Take a leaf from social media influencers. Each one of them started with no followers, but they believed they could do it, right? These tips are not all-inclusive so please feel free to add yours in the comments.
Hey there, I am Janet Nambi.
I am a recovering high-achieving workaholic who worked herself to burnout and quit a successful business because I thought that was the only option.
Five years ago I got into a profession that taught me that I did not have to quit. That I could've sought help and worked through my burnout while I planned my next course of action. But because everything happens exactly as it is supposed to, that experience had to happen in order for me to get here.