From social networks to business organizations, the role of the influencer has come into the spotlight. No matter what your job, influence allows you to put forth ideas that motivate others and add value. Influencers are leaders because they have organizational capital.
Today in corporate America, women remain underrepresented at every level despite a high verbal commitment to gender diversity in the workplace.1 This makes influence a crucial way for women to break through continuing barriers and assume leadership roles.
The way many businesses make decisions has changed. Important strategic decisions are complex, consensus-based, and take longer to make. Companies are relying less on the authority of a single decision maker. Many value collaboration and are working to break down organizational silos that act on their own. In this environment, influencers can help to solve multi-faceted problems that no one person or group can address alone. Influence is a key element of leadership.
How can you build your role as an influencer? Here are five tips to help you start:
- Do your homework. Thomas Edison famously said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration. The same is true of exerting influence. It’s vital to do any necessary research to back up your position and to build consensus among key stakeholders before pitching an idea. Understand the best timing for when to exert influence.
- Seek common ground. Research shows that people tend to like others who they perceive as similar to them.2 In order to gain influence, it is important to connect to others in a way that makes them receptive to your ideas.
- Share your motives. Rather than hide your motivation, be up front about why you are gathering people together and what you want to achieve. People will value an open and transparent agenda.
- Mobilize support. Surround yourself with people who will support you. Seek out a mentor or sponsor. Cultivate relationships with other influencers who share your goals. Use your network as a sounding board for ideas and to hone your message and how you communicate it.
- Build your reputation. Seek opportunities outside of your workplace to share your ideas and views. Join organizations that will help to broaden your professional network. Look for opportunities to take on leadership roles.
Gain organizational power by investing in influence
Growing organizational capital is like accumulating wealth. You work to build value today so you can spend it at the opportune time. If you invest in building influence, you will have the organizational capital available to contribute to those ideas and initiatives that are most important to you.
Organizations recognize influencers as leaders who sway opinions and impact decision-makers. As women continue to strive to break through the barriers to leadership positions, one way to gain organizational power is to become an influencer.