Influence isn’t just a skill; it’s the heartbeat of effective leadership. Whether guiding a team towards a common goal or inspiring organizational change, the ability to influence others is crucial. Yet, influence is not simply about persuading others to follow one’s lead; it’s about fostering genuine connections, understanding diverse perspectives, and empowering individuals to contribute meaningfully.

The Ladder of Influence: Building a Foundation for Impact

At the heart of influence lies the first, and essential, concept called, The Ladder of Influence. This metaphorical ladder is one which we all climb up and down in our day-to-day activities. This ladder is made up of three different parts.

The highest rung on the ladder is reputation, that is, the way people perceive you before you do anything (based on past actions).  The middle rung is character, that is the patterns of behaviors you mindfully, or mindlessly, display with consistency. At the bottom of the ladder are your everyday micro-behaviors. These are the moment-to-moment actions that you display through the interactions and situations of your day.

The key to the ladder is to understand that the way to change each rung is by changing something in the rung below it. For example, think of a leader who rolls her eyes or sighs with frustration when she doesn’t agree with ideas or directions. Those small micro-behaviors, if consistently practiced, can easily become part of her character. And once that character trait is in place, it could, in part, define her reputation as resistant to ideas different than her own.  Once that reputation is in place, it could inhibit her ability to participate in certain kinds of meetings or exclude work on important  projects, thus lowering her influence within the organization.

To ascend the Ladder of Influence then, you must first assess your current reputation and identify areas for improvement. This requires introspection and feedback from trusted peers. By pinpointing behaviors that hinder influence, you can then focus on changing your character—cultivating traits that align with your desired reputation. From there, attention turns to micro-behaviors, the subtle actions and responses that shape daily interactions. By consciously modifying these micro-behaviors, you can strengthen your influence and build trust with others.

The Big Idea: If you want to shift your reputation, shift your character through small changes in daily micro-behaviors.

Taking Multiple Perspectives: Empathy as a Catalyst for Connection

Have you ever thought about what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes? What it would be like to see the world from where they stand? The ability to take the perspective of someone else is one that makes humans special. How does this ability of taking another’s perspective relate to influence? Influence is not a one-way street; it thrives on understanding and empathy. Taking multiple perspectives is a powerful strategy for expanding your influence by considering the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others. By stepping into another’s shoes, you can tailor your communication and approach to resonate with diverse audiences, fostering deeper connections and mutual respect.

To practice taking multiple perspectives, you must cultivate empathy and active listening skills. This involves actively seeking out diverse viewpoints, suspending judgment, and genuinely seeking to understand others’ perspectives. By incorporating empathy into daily interactions, you can build trust, enhance collaboration, and inspire loyalty among team members.


Increasing the Influence of Others: Empowerment Through Collaboration

Humans tend to help when they feel needed. Typically, when people feel that they can influence a situation, they are more likely to participate or offer help. This is good news for leaders looking to increase their own influence. This is because influence is a two-way street. By increasing the influence of others, you can amplify your impact and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. This involves inviting team members into the decision-making process, valuing their contributions, and creating opportunities for growth and development.

To increase the influence of others, you must prioritize inclusivity and encourage participation from all team members. This may involve asking potent questions that draw out diverse perspectives, providing opportunities for skill-building and leadership development, and recognizing and celebrating individual achievements. By empowering others to contribute and lead, you can create a dynamic and resilient team capable of achieving extraordinary results.

What Impact Do You Want to Make?

Influence is not just a tool for achieving personal success; it’s a vehicle for driving positive change and transformational leadership. By embracing the principles of, The Ladder of Influence, Taking Multiple Perspectives, and Increasing the Influence of Others, you can cultivate meaningful connections, foster collaboration, and inspire positive change. As you continue to navigate the complexities of leadership, remember that true influence is not measured by the number of followers but by the depth of impact we have on those around us. By harnessing the power of influence, we can lead with integrity, empathy, and purpose, shaping a world where every voice is heard, valued, and empowered to make a difference.