influence: the magnet that draws others to you

You know people of influence. They’re not necessarily the tallest, best-dressed people in the room but they definitely have something. Their carriage says confidence and composure. People watch them. When they speak, others listen. Theirs is a sphere of influence that impacts decision-making at all levels, changes company direction or keeps it solidly on track while all around, markets fluctuate wildly. According to Forbes, they change minds, shape opinions and inspire others to act. People follow them through the storm. That’s influence.

That’s power.

These are people who exert control before they’ve uttered a word. They’re highly regarded, the people others want to hear from and follow willingly because they feel compelled to do so. While some people are born with the ability to attract others to them, the rest of us can learn the skills required to not only attract others but to keep them engaged and willing to follow our lead and heed our direction. How long and successfully we exert influence on others depends on our history of integrity, reliability, agility, flexibility, thoughtful decision-making and our rate of past success.

how to be influential at work

how to become a person of influence

There’s a nursery tale in which a chicken, Henny Penny, is struck on the head by a falling acorn and decides that the sky is falling and she must run and tell the king. Along the way, Henny Penny meets a variety of animals who decide to accompany her until they meet up with a fox, who is not what he claims to be. The end of the story has some unfortunate outcomes. But the point of the story, in terms of creating influence, is that Henny Penny is able to easily convince others that the sky is indeed falling and they, in turn, are compelled to follow her.

Henny Penny is hardly an intellectual giant. She engages the others by sheer force of will, not by invitation to join her but by her certain conviction that she’s right about the sky falling and that, whether they follow her or not, hers is the only logical solution. That’s influence, barnyard style. Creating a sphere of influence at which we are the center in the business world is a little more complex.

Here are some tips that will start you thinking about being the kind of influential person you yourself would follow.

carry yourself with confidence. 

Even if at first you have to fake it to make it, stand tall. Put your shoulders back, raise your head, make eye contact. Look like you’re confident. You’re communicating non-verbally about who you are and how you want others to regard you. Wear clothes appropriate to your workplace but bump them up a notch. Wear things you’re comfortable in, but not too comfortable. Sometimes a structured suit jacket, pumps or a tie remind you to stand tall and carry yourself accordingly.

smile often.

Be personable, whatever that means for you, as long as you can do it honestly and sincerely. People can spot a fake a mile away. If a pleasant countenance isn’t your thing, do it anyway. You’re building others’ confidence in you and that won’t happen if you have a face like a storm cloud.

listen more. 

Real power isn’t about pounding the desk to make a point or get others’ attention. Real influence is quiet, almost internal. It’s a surety that you’re hearing others, considering options, coming to wise conclusions. You can agree to disagree in a way that leaves others intact. Like being a great leader, a person of influence is inclusive of others’ opinions and suggestions even though the final decision rests with them and they’re going to make it.

practice humility. 

People of real influence and authority don’t have to blow their own horns. Others do that for them. They’re not aggressive because they have an air of quiet, certain confidence. They don’t have to yell to be heard. A repetitive litany of all your successes to whoever you can corner says you’re insecure and in need of constant positive reinforcement. Not influential in the right way.

build trust. 

This comes back to being the leader you yourself would follow. You want to be the kind of person you hold in high regard. Integrity, consistent performance, hard work, a lack of arrogance, flexibility, inclusivity, openness – whatever qualities you admire in people who you respect and who influence you are the ones you should emulate.

There’s no magic or mystery to becoming a person of influence. It’s based on some tweaking of the skills and traits you already have, along with careful, thoughtful observance and practice. Being a person of influence carries responsibility because people who follow you will do so based less on an intellectual decision and more on an emotional response. Respect them, respect yourself and you’ll soon find you’re drawing people to you, people who you can influence in positive ways. And that’s where power lies, particularly the kind of power that counts.

want more career advice? sign up to receive our latest advice.

join our newsletter