Leadership and influence: Why it matters more than ever

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The recession had taken a toll on the industry, and I was working at a part-time “in-between” job when the call came through. I could hardly contain my excitement as I told my parents and friends the good news. I secured an interview for the following day. The idea of being a manager was so appealing to me!

As I walked down Pitt Street in Sydney for the interview, I already visualized my beautiful large office, brand-new company car, and high-paying salary. I arrived outside the building and checked the address. I looked back up at the building and back down at the address; I was hoping there was a mistake. The four-story building that stood before me was grey and drab; frosted, barred windows, some cracked, had thick, abandoned cobwebs draped around the edges. This building looked as though it was about to be condemned.

The beginning

Do you remember your first manager? Did he or she influence you to be your best, or were you left disillusioned or disheartened? Whenever I have asked these questions during my speeches and leadership workshops, participants respond quickly, visualizing their immediate or past experiences almost instantly. The exercise helps leaders and future leaders understand the impact of influence.

The degree to which a leader makes a powerful, personal, and lasting positive impression is in direct proportion to the quality of their employee relationships. Whether you are a seasoned leader or a new one, your influence is likely to be felt and remembered. And in times of flux, acute talent shortages and a work world that has forever changed due to recent events, the significance of your role as a role model, mentor and leader cannot be understated.

The decision to hire and grow leaders

For years, I have been a fan of Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup. His company has surveyed millions of employees and leaders across the globe for the past forty years. Time and again, Gallup’s research confirms that companies in an array of industries put the wrong leaders into the wrong job over 80 percent of the time! If this alarming statistic doesn’t get your attention, I am not sure what it will take to get you and your organization to act—and act fast.

With so much out of your control, the one area you can control is who you decide to place into this esteemed and influential position of leading others. You can take positive action to recalibrate when you know it’s the right thing to do.

Evolving leadership

Whether you are a CEO, entrepreneur, or executive team leader, your leadership responsibilities must evolve along with your workforce. Command and control leadership styles are being called into question, and employee values and expectations are not necessarily the same as yours. Real-time leaders will need to find ways to transform themselves, their own leaders, as well as their organizations against a backdrop of transformation. Many of you, as well as the leaders you choose to lead in your organizations, will need to lead differently. Some of you may even need to get back to the basics if you are going to effectively connect with your teams.

The long-term impact of your influence

An EY Global survey on employee trust notes that one of the top influencing factors across all age groups is the degree of open, transparent communication, frequency of two-way dialogue, feedback, and willingness to hear their point of view. Think about the implications of a manager’s inadequate communications with their employees about career development and performance. What message does that send to an employee about how their value is perceived both now and in the future? When it is clear that an individual has high potential and is an asset to your organization, there can be significant mutual benefit if they are given the right direction and support. Never underestimate your effect on an employee’s career path.

As leaders, you understand how you profoundly influence every aspect of your organization. Finding the secret sauce to successfully lead a mix of personalities need not be elusive. The possibilities turn into probabilities the more you can sharpen your self-awareness and remain a lifelong learner.

Ultimately, your teams, employees, and primary stakeholders see you as the key individual providing the overall direction and presiding over critical business decisions. Your imprint is felt throughout all levels of your enterprise, evidenced by your mission, values, culture, and talent pool. Some of you may wield your influence overtly, while others are quietly impacting strategy, hiring processes, and customer-centric initiatives. In the long run, no matter how high tech your organization may become, the culmination of all your efforts and decisions for which you are responsible will continue to touch the lives of many.

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