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ATD Blog

5 Expert Tips on Becoming an Influencer and Leader

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Research continues to show that thousands of Baby Boomers are retiring every day, leaving leadership positions open for everyone else to step into. With an increasing number of Millennials in the workforce, women advancing in business, and diversity programs on the rise, the playing field is being leveled; more professionals have the opportunity to transform cultures and become leaders. However, to become a leader, it is important to recognize the personal development that must take place before one is ready be in such a position.

As world-renowned leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” Many people have the notion that one must be in a formal leadership role with a fancy title; they have bought into the idea that a powerful title is enough to influence an organization. In reality, organizations are influenced by people who possess certain personal characteristics and impact change through their actions rather than their words.

So, the question becomes: What do you need to be doing now to develop the personal characteristics of someone capable of influencing others and being a leader? Fortunately, the resources we need are at our fingertips. Below are strategies from leading authors to develop such personal characteristics.


Be a Connector—John C. Maxwell

In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John C. Maxwell outlines the importance of being intentional in building relationships and creating bonds with other people. He asserts that the more people feel close to you, the more they will trust you and, as a result, be influenced by you. We are connected with others by shared visions, mindsets, emotions, and words. The more we can build rapport with people on these dimensions, the better opportunity we will have to be influencers.

Build Trust—Stephen R. Covey

A few years back, I took a course based on Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. In preparation for the course, all participants took a 360-degree assessment on how trustworthy we perceived ourselves to be and how trustworthy others perceived us to be. The results on my report were eye-opening, to say the least. Building trust with others enables us to be more collaborative, innovative, creative, and effective. As a result, we are able to influence change and achieve results faster and at a higher level. Seek to build trust and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Develop Your Personal Brand—Lindsey Pollak

Multigenerational workplace expert Lindsey Pollak believes that your brand consists of your words, your appearance, and your online presence. In her book, Becoming the Boss, Pollak discusses being intentional about what you want your personal brand to be, both in person and online. She states that everything you write, speak, publish, and wear says something about you personally, and as a result will have an impact on those around you. What kind of influencer do you want to be? Your personal brand will be a critical factor in your ability to be a leader and culture-changer in your organization.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset—Carol Dweck

According to Stanford psychology professor and author of Mindset Carol Dweck, research has shown that some of us have a “fixed” mindset and others have a “growth” mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their personal qualities and intelligence levels won’t change, while those with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence levels have no limits. By cultivating a growth mindset and believing that you can continuously develop your abilities, you will be able to have a greater influence on those around you.

Have a Positive Attitude—Shawn Achor

Harvard researcher Shawn Achor is well-known for his advocacy in positive psychology. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Achor discusses seven strategies for changing the lens through which you view your environment, including your job, your relationships, and your daily life. In so doing, he uncovers ways in which we can have a positive attitude and thereby impact the lives of those around us. Positivity is a contagious attribute and increases your ability to influence others and create change.

Regardless of whether you desire to be in a formal leadership position or not, these five lessons can have a tremendous impact on your personal and professional development. By becoming a leader as a person, you will become someone who others want to be around, will listen to, and will go the extra mile for you when you need it. Are you ready to be an influencer?

About the Author

Dan Schwartz is an HR communications manager with BKD CPAs and Advisors. In his role, Dan is focused on executing communication initiatives for BKD to support the firm’s culture and communicate the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). He is responsible for developing, writing and overseeing the release of internal and external communication documents and programs that promote the firm's key people initiatives. Dan has published articles, books, videos, and podcasts related to career development and leadership development. He is the author of TD at Work: Managing as a Ground Floor Leader, Winning Strategies: Achieving Success in the Classroom, Career and Life and is a contributing author to Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love.

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Wonderful. I am excited to read all of the books this year.
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Thank you all for the kind words and comments! I am excited to hear that these principles and books resonate with you and will influence your personal and professional development. I am grateful for your readership and willingness to share the content.
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Perfect ways to take action to ensure I'm the leader my team deserves, and show up as the person I desire to be most!
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