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Be a Ground Floor Leader: Influence Your Peers

Thursday, July 30, 2015
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Many people make the mistake of thinking they must wait for the corner office and fancy title to practice their leadership skills. But anyone can start becoming a leader long before the words “VP” or “Manager” are put on their office door. Do you want to get a head start on your leadership skills as a core-level employee? If so, start by becoming what I call a “Ground Floor Leader” and influence your peers. 

First, consider these questions: What has influenced you in your life? Was it a special event that shaped you and your personality? Was it a particular person who took the time to care about you and your overall well-being? Whatever your answer, we have all had the opportunity to be influenced in one way or another throughout our lives. What’s more, we have a large amount of influence on those around us. We may not know whom we are influencing or when those moments occur, but it is happening all around us—each and every day. 

This begs another question: Do you want to be a positive influence on others or would you rather be a source of negativity and disappointment for those around you? I would take a guess and say that most of us would rather be positive influencers. So how do we do it? 

The most effective way to understand how to influence others is to think about a person who has influenced you most in your life and answer these questions: 

  • What did they do for you?
  • Why did they do it?
  • What made it so special?
  • How did it change you and your personality? 

Case in point: I can recall several college professors and faculty members who instilled great values in me during my years at Kansas State University. I had several instructors who were great agents of positivity and encouragement in the classroom setting. Many of them motivated me to begin writing books and sharing my knowledge. Their influence occurred over the course of four years, in which they took the time to share their knowledge, listen to me and my concerns about the coursework, and give 100 percent of their energy when I needed it the most. 
There are several ways in which influencing happens every day, all around us, but some select methods have had a larger impact on my life than others. Here are four ways you can become a culture change agent and influence those around you in a positive way. 

#1: Influence by teaching. Sharing knowledge is a powerful way to make a connection. Anytime you have the opportunity to teach a skill to someone else, you also have the opportunity to influence their life in a profound and unique manner. In my opinion, teaching is one of the best ways to influence others. Why? Because by teaching them a new skill, you are actively and positively influencing their behaviors, which often become permanent characteristics of their personality, enabling them influence others and become a leader in their own way.

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#2: Influence by caring. Caring is the easiest thing to do in the world. Yet, many of us fail to care for ourselves and others on a daily basis. Leadership expert John Maxwell said it best: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care." 

Because leadership is often defined as the ability to gain followers and the ability to influence those around you to the extent that their lives are improved by your presence, you must learn to care about others just as much as you care about yourself. Caring for others and being dedicated to doing good for others has a tremendous impact on those around you. When people notice that you have done a random act of kindness for another individual, or gone out of your way to make someone else’s day a little better, you have not only become an influencer, but you have become a culture change agent.


#3: Influence by listening. Having a positive influence on someone involves saying the right thing, at the right time, to have the right effect. This can only happen when we are truly listening to another individual. 

When someone asks for your listening ear, try this approach: When they are finished speaking, pause for three seconds and allow yourself to think carefully about what the person said, in order to deliver a proper response. Do not think at all about what you are going to say while the other person is talking. Only listen. Once you have determined that the other person is finished talking, then give your response. Simply lending your ears and giving people the proper response will go a long way towards becoming a person of positive influence. 

#4: Influencing by giving. As human beings, we are selfish creatures. We spend time thinking about our own careers, our own relationships, our own money, our own families, and our own goals and needs for the future. What if you approached your life with a new philosophy for influence? What if you approached your life with the following mission: “I am committed to giving more of my time and my energy to other people’s needs and focusing less on myself.” My, what a different world we would live in if everyone thought like that! 

Bottom line: If you want to be an influencer, give more of your time, energy, and focus to those around you than your own needs, and you will be well on your way making a positive impact on others. Indeed, you can become a change agent in your organization, and influence others by teaching, caring, listening, and giving!

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

About the Author
Dan Schwartz is a University Relations Specialist with BKD CPAs and Advisors. In his role, Dan plays an active role in developing brand awareness through recruitment marketing, sourcing strategies, social media campaigns, report generation, and support of the university relations team. 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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