Influencing skills in business leadership vital | Sunday Observer

Influencing skills in business leadership vital

19 September, 2021

A former American Secretary of State, political scientist, diplomat, and civil servant, Condoleezza Rice, once said, “Power is nothing unless you can turn it into influence”.  People have a choice and they decide the magnitude of service they will offer. The ‘command and control method’ that existed for centuries is now outdated and rarely effective. Hence, the key to successful business leadership is not merely vested power any longer but is how effectively one can influence the followers. 

The ability to influence is an essential ingredient in leadership skills. The legitimate power vested in a person with a position or a designation by an organisation has no value until and unless such a person can influence his subordinates to trust him. A good leader can have an impact on the behaviour, attitudes, opinions, and choices of his subordinates. Influencing is not manipulating the followers through power by any means.  

Influencing is about understanding what subordinates need and what motivates their commitment to the job and then using that knowledge to leverage performance. The key element of influencing is the mutual trust built between the leader and the followers. Effective influencing requires a perfect balance between building rapport and getting desired results. Both these aspects are essential for a leader to be successful as an influencer. 

Establishing credibility

The first step of the leader is to build up trust with the staff with integrity, intent, capabilities, and results which are the foundational aspects of establishing credibility. The leader must be completely honest of his intentions and convey that honesty to subordinates for them to clearly understand his motives. After trustworthiness is established through credibility, the influencing process can be effectively practiced with subordinate staff.  

Engaging and involving others in the staff early on and seeking their inputs places the leader in a convenient position. Obtaining views of the staff in important decision-making, individually or as a team, builds the mutual bond. By displaying sincerity that matters to others one can build stronger connections with the staff. Influencing can be more effective when the subordinates realise that the leader’s motives are genuine.     

To get better outcomes, leaders must persuade and engage followers. However, before engaging employees on their commitment, the leader must clearly define his or her expectations to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. Once the desired result is defined and communicated to the staff, accountability can be established, as individuals and as a group.  If the leader fails to clarify his expectations, accountability cannot be practiced and that can create a low-trust situation. 

The leader must genuinely be passionate about the staff members, in their official engagements and private lives. The passion of the leader conveys an exceedingly strong message to the followers. They will know whether the leader’s actions are authentic or fake and insincere. It is a proven fact that one of the traits most admired by employees is the leader’s ability to be forward-looking.  Good leaders influence others by sharing their enthusiasm.  

Merely by applying influencing skills in the workplace, a manager can persuade and encourage colleagues to fall in line with their goals and ideas. This ultimately helps to accomplish personal success. Therefore, having a lucid and confident knowledge of influencing skills is imperative to a leader.  However, the key point is that the leader has to start applying influencing skills as early as possible.  

The leader is dealing with the emotions and attitudes of other people when working. Noticing the surroundings including the work environment, attitudes and the general behaviours of the colleagues is important while visible actions of the people around must be done consciously. Therefore, being aware of the oncoming situations deeply is imperative for the leader to ensure that the counter-reactions are productive.  

Communication effectiveness

Human communication has three basic purposes: to educate/inform, to relate, or to influence others. In influencing others at the workplace, all three of these elements are used. Effective communication moves information to the others where influencing based on such information moves ideas into action that produces an impact without being forceful. 

How effectively a leader can communicate with his superiors, colleagues, and subordinates is an important and integral part of influencing. Active listening skills and empathy are two of the most useful ingredients in communication. By listening actively to the colleagues’ ideas intently and patiently makes the leader more likable to a team that also builds more rapport with them. 

Empathy is power

American business magnate and founder of Ford Motor Company quoted “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own”. Empathy is an extremely effective and powerful tool in influencing. It is the ability to relate the emotions and experiences of others. Empathetic leaders understand and support others with compassion and sensitivity. Simply explained, empathy is one’s ability to step into someone else’s shoes and be aware of their feelings and needs.  

An empathetic leader influences co-workers with deep respect to them and sincerely shows them that he cares about them rather than merely going by rules and regulations. When co-workers feel that the leader understands them implicitly, they feel like a closely bonded team or a family. This feeling increases team morale and loyalty. The leader becomes well-liked and respected by the subordinates if he is truly being empathetic. 

Critical thinking 

Critical thinking is another key skill in the workplace concerning influencing staff. The followers’ positive attitude towards the leader known as ‘referent power’ is vital in a work environment. Providing solutions to issues constantly arise in a workplace makes a leader more influential. Leaders who can engage in critical thinking are independent, reflective, and competent. 

Leaders, as critical thinkers, logically connect ideas, analyze, and evaluate to solve issues posed by the subordinates. They not only accumulate information in a given situation but also use such information to provide solutions to provide the best outcomes.  


Consultation is an effective form of influence. When the team members are invited to contribute to thinking about an issue for subsequent decision-making, they are more likely to be positive about their approach to work. A good leader can turn this positivity into action in order to produce results. However, the leader’s intention must be authentic and the consultation must be done only if the subsequent changes are actually possible. Even if the inputs of the staff cannot be used for decisions, they must be informed of the reasons why such inputs cannot be applied.  

Negotiation and persuasion skills are closely linked and aspects of communication. Whilst negotiation skills relate to deciding by discussion and agreements, persuasion is one’s ability to change others’ opinions or behaviours.   

In a workplace, frequent disagreements and conflicting views can emerge. Therefore a good leader can use both persuasion and negotiation skills at the correct times and situations to influence the co-workers through dialogues. 

Successful influencing skills of a leader are naturally charismatic and appealing to strangers when they look at it from the outside. Nevertheless, it is the versatility, knowledge, and competency of the leader. Highly successful leaders are determined by their influencing ability and resourcefulness in the workplace. The success of a team is largely dependent on how skillful the leader is in influencing staff.