THE BLOG
12/16/2014 06:42 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2015

Sharpen Your Influence, Strengthen Your Leadership

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Influence: Noun -- The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

That is how the dictionary defines influence. How do you define it? What makes you an influential person?

Growing up, I'm sure you heard the expression, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you go too?" Time and time again we were told not to be a negative influence on others, and to choose friends who would be a positive influence.

This was a great lesson early on in the game of life because no matter your age, influence is tied closely to your leadership style as an adult. The dictionary also missed the detail behind "the capacity to have an effect" part. In this definition, "capacity" means different things to different people. The good news is that we all have the capacity to influence positively, we just need to understand how we can do so through our strengths. I speak about self-awareness often, and it is especially important here. You will find your ability to positively influence others greatly improves when you know more about your own strengths.

Influencing Others

When thinking about this concept, you may think of very famous, influential people. Jeff Bezos and Mark Cuban are two I admire. There are many, Time magazine curates a list of 100 people every year. You may also think you must be just like them in how they go about influencing others. I advocate that you should read about them, learn from them and study how they influence others. However, I also advocate that you should not try to be exact replicas of them. Instead, observe the bigger concepts of what they actually do and learn from these root lessons:

  • They address their audience very relevantly, personally and meaningfully
  • They organize their points in way that does not overwhelm their audience or confuse them
  • They present in a way that fits the needs of that particular audience and setting

When you look at their influence from this perspective, you will also notice that each one of them goes about each of these things in their own way, leveraging their unique strengths. Mark Cuban is known for an outspoken and direct approach, where Jeff Bezos is famous for leading through metrics and measurability. These are two of many approaches that can be effective. So how can you benefit from this idea? Become influential in your own way.

Here are three ways I encourage you to sharpen your influence skills in 2015:

Learn Constantly
  • Attend engaging sessions that allow you to make new connections and develop key skills.
  • Study famous, memorable and world-changing leaders.
  • The next time you encounter an influential situation, whether it's in the moment or after, consciously identify what was done to come to the conclusion desired by the influencer (other party).
Read Often
  • Use blogs and newspapers as a way to become more versed in your knowledge. By knowing a lot about a little and a little about a lot, you instantly can relate with more people and talk about more than just the weather.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
  • Understanding how different people receive your message speaks to the importance of knowing your audience. The next time you give a presentation, sales pitch or proposal, think for ten minutes on what you plan to say would sound like from another viewpoint.

What are your thoughts? I want to hear from you. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let's chat.