In a leadership role, everything you want to achieve depends on your level of influence. If you can’t influence people, you can’t effectively lead them, particularly when times are challenging.
Influence and influential leadership is a form of persuasion. It’s about having a positive impact on the actions, thoughts, and behaviours of others. It's the ability to trigger a thought process which leads them to a conclusion they choose to act on.
Here’s the thing. You can’t influence people if you can’t see where they’re coming from. It’s like trying to lead in a blindfold. Nor can you influence people if you’re operating from a rigid perspective.
Changing your perspective - or at least, considering the perspectives of others - helps you better understand yourself and the people you’re hoping to influence.
3 ways a change in perspective can help you influence an outcome
- Problem solving
Your ability to solve problems and reduce conflict is directly proportional to your ability to see from a different perspective. If you can’t see a situation from the other person’s perspective, you have no insight into the thoughts and emotions driving them. You don’t know what’s important to them or what’s worrying them. You can’t tap into the concerns they’ve recognised through their life experiences. You have no common ground to stand on.
Johnson & Johnson have done research on this topic over the years and they’ve confirmed that by sharing perspectives on a problem or situation, both parties are more likely to share extra information, both personal and impersonal. They share their messages in a way which increases understanding of each person’s position. There are two benefits here.
First, when the person feels understood and heard, they are more likely to want to cooperate on finding a solution.
Second, a leader, you can see the merits in their perspective. You also have the insight to recognise the blockages stopping the person from taking the action you hope for.
As you work through the problem together, you’re now focused on finding a good solution, rather than pushing your own perspective on the other.
- Improved decision making
You look at the world through your own perspective which drives your actions, decisions, and behaviours, even if you’re not aware of it. In the leadership role, perspective is important because it affects the quality of your decision-making ability.
In a crisis, where every decision is critical, influential leadership and perspective could make the difference between success and failure. A good decision is never one-sided.
To make the best decisions, you need to understand and manage the risks associated with your choice. By looking from your own perspective, you’re operating within a set of assumptions you’ve inferred from your view of reality. You’re blinkered.
By involving your team in the decision-making process, you clarify your assumptions and see new perspectives which add to the data you need. Remember, it’s your team that’s out there at the pointy end of business, so their information is invaluable.
Not only does changing your perspective lead to better decisions, but it also increases team commitment to the final choice, even if it isn’t the one they’d have chosen.
- Relationship building
To influence, you need to understand. To understand, you need to see from a new perspective.
When you toss out your assumptions about people and get to know them, you establish the basis for a solid relationship. Talk to them. Consciously change your perspective to see the world through their eyes and you’ll be astonished at how different their reality is. You’ll see what matters to them and why. You’ll see what’s affecting their performance (positively or negatively) and start to understand what needs to change.
Influential leadership is when people feel heard and understood, and the information is handled with sensitivity, trust grows. Where trust exists, so does the opportunity to influence.
To sum it up, you don’t build influence with persuasive arguments. You build it by building relationships, understanding what drives your people and why, and honouring that in your interactions. If you can genuinely do that, you’ve begun to shape up as a leader with influence.