How to Grow Your Influence As a Leader (15 Ways)

15 Ways to Grow Your Influence As a Leader

If you want to be an effective leader, you must build influence. You can’t lead by just position alone.

In fact, if you use your position and authority to “lead”, you aren’t really leading at all, you are just pushing. And when you push, people often push back.

When you lead by position, people may do what your authority allows, but they will likely do the bare minimum and won’t have the desire to go above and beyond for you.

Influence is different.

With influence, people choose to follow you. They aren’t doing it because you are the boss, but they are doing it because of the respect and relationship they have with you.

What exactly is influence?

Influence is the relationship and respect you have with and from your team that causes them to want to follow you and to act with and for you.

So then, the question is, “How do you grow your influence as a leader?”

In this article, we discuss 15 ways to do that.

But do take note, just like leadership itself, building influence is a process. It takes time – but it’s worth it.

1. Be trustworthy (act with integrity)

Think about it: If you had a boss whom you couldn’t trust, you didn’t know if what they told you was the truth, they would often cut corners, they would tell you they would do something but wouldn’t follow through – how much would you want to follow that person? How much influence would they have on you?

If you really want to build influence with your team or employees, you must be a person they can trust. Trust and influence go hand-in-hand.

You need to be someone they can trust so that when you say something, they know you are telling the truth. When you say you will do something, they know you will follow through.

But trust and trust-building is more than just telling the truth. It’s:

  • Owning up to your mistakes
  • Admitting when you don’t know
  • Speaking up even when it’s hard
  • Doing what is right, even when no one is looking
  • Keeping confidences well
  • Not talking behind people’s back
  • Using resources and time wisely
  • Not cutting corners or cheating

When people can trust you, that helps build the confidence and influence to follow you.

Also Read: Integrity in Leadership: Why It Matters

2. Trust your team

Think about it: If you have a boss who is constantly looking over your shoulder, micromanaging you, controlling you – how much influence will that person have over you? How much would you want to follow that kind of leader?

If you feel like you must control and micromanage your team, believe that they won’t get anything done unless you force them, not that’s not a good sign.

And the thing is, that’s not a sign against them; it’s a sign against you.

It means that your influence is low with them, that you haven’t set clear expectations, and/or you haven’t provided the resources or training they need.

It could be that you have the wrong people in the wrong seats. It could mean you hired poorly.

It could be that you are just controlling, have a high ego, don’t know how to teach or set expectations, aren’t aware of the assumptions you are making or are insecure.

When you show trust to your team, that builds influence with them. If you try to control and micromanage them, that shreds your influence.

3. Build relationships with your team (and care about them)

Grow Your Influence - Build relationships with your team

Think about it: If you had a boss who just treated you as a tool to be discarded or as a cog – someone who didn’t care about you as a person – how much would you want to follow that person?

As a leader, you need to build relationships with your team and care about them as people. Learn about them. Get to know them.

This doesn’t mean you need to be “friends” or be their “BFF”. It just means that you get to know them and truly care about them.

When you show that you care about them, it will help your influence grow.

4. Be competent

Think about it: If you had a boss that was really nice, but was never able to get anything done, was indecisive and was unable to do much of their leadership duties well, would that inspire confidence in you?

Don’t get me wrong, you may like them as a person, but would you want to follow them?

Probably not.

While trust is more important, you still need to have some kind of level of competence (and if it’s low, you should be working to grow it).

A leader’s job is to lead people to the accomplishment of a goal. If you aren’t doing that, you aren’t leading, you are just being a nice person.

A leader's job is to lead people to the accomplishment of a goal. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

5. Take ownership

Think about it: If you had a boss who, anytime something went wrong, they would blame the team, someone else, the economy, or anything but themselves, is that the kind of person you would want to follow?

As a leader, you are responsible for everything you do and all that your team does. It’s on you as a leader.

If you make a mistake, own up to it, take responsibility, and work to fix it. Blaming just makes you look weak.

If your team fails or makes a mistake, take ownership, and then discuss and work toward fixing it.

When you blame, you aren’t solving the problem. When you take ownership, then you can work toward fixing it.

Being a leader who takes ownership helps build influence from your team as a leader.

6. Admit your mistakes

Grow Your Influence - Admit your mistakes

Think about it: If you had a boss who never admitted to his or her mistakes, who tried to hide them, even though it was obvious, would that person build much influence on you? Would you want to follow that kind of person?

When you make mistakes, own up to it. Don’t hide it.

People sometimes want to hide their mistakes because they are afraid it will make them look bad. But it’s the opposite.

When you own up to your mistakes, it makes you look strong as a person and a leader. When you try to hide them, that is what makes you look weak.

Also Read: Leadership Mistakes: 3 Must-Do Steps To Overcome Effectively

7. Admit when you don’t know

Think about it: If you had a boss who always pretended to know everything when they didn’t (or they would try to fake it or make something up), would you trust that person?

Too often, leaders don’t want to admit they don’t know something because they fear it will make them look dumb or people will think less of them.

For some reason, we as leaders sometimes think we are supposed to know everything. We aren’t! We can’t!

That’s one reason why we hire good people.

If you don’t know something, be about learning, not trying to “look good”.

The thing is, eventually, if not sooner, your lying and lack of knowledge will show, and that will hurt you as a leader and lower your influence on your team.

8. Pass credit to the team

Think about it: If every time you worked hard on a project or task, someone else would always take the credit for it, how would you feel about that person? Would you want to follow them?

Weak leaders, when things go wrong, blame others, but when things go well, they take the credit.

It should be the opposite.

You may think it makes you look good when you take the credit for yourself, but it just builds ill will with your team and others.

When things go well, don’t take the credit for yourself. Pass the credit to your team and others. That makes you look good to the person giving the credit, but it also builds influence with those to whom you pass the credit.  

9. Ask for and accept feedback

Think about it: If you had a boss who would never listen to feedback or any form of criticism toward them or their ideas, who would always get defensive and argue – would that behavior inspire much influence in you?

Think of the opposite: If they asked for feedback, listened, and said thank you, what would you think?

 When you said something against their idea, they would listen, consider and even change what they were thinking, would those behaviors inspire influence?

Be a leader who asks for and accepts feedback. Don’t let insecurities keep you from learning and growing. Be about learning and growth!

Ask your team for feedback. Accept it. Consider it. Don’t get defensive or argue, just say “Thank you”. You don’t have to agree with everything, but still, listen and show appreciation for it.

We all have blind spots, and feedback from others can help us make terrible mistakes.

AND (the whole point of this article) it helps build influence.

10. Be about helping and serving your team, not “getting” your team

Think about it: If all your boss did when walking around or “checking” on you was look for mistakes you made, how would that make you feel? Does that inspire influence?

If your mentality is “getting” your team, catching them doing wrong, you have the wrong mentality. With that mentality, you are creating a culture of fear, not loyalty.

If, when they see you, they think, “Oh no, here she is again” or “I wonder what wrong thing I’m doing now”, your hurting yourself, your team, and your team’s productivity.

People begin focusing on not making mistakes versus doing the best job they can – and it lowers morale and engagement as well.

Instead, be about serving your team. Focus on helping them. When you see them, show appreciation and ask how you can help them.

They should be excited about seeing you, not fearful.

11. Know and help them accomplish their goals

Know and help them accomplish their goals

Think about it: How would you feel about a boss who took the time to get to know you and your career goals and worked to give you tasks and resources to help you grow toward those goals?

Be that kind of leader.

Take the time to get to know your team and their dreams and career goals. Then, as much as you can, help them attain those goals. If possible, give them tasks that help them learn the skills for those goals.

Show how their goals align with company goals.

Helping your team better themselves builds influence with your team.

Also Read: How to Achieve Your Goals (7 Simple Steps to Make Them Happen)

12. Give the benefit of the doubt

Think about it: If every time something happened, your boss assumed the worst and criticized you without knowing the full story, would that inspire you to follow them?

What if every time something happened, your boss assumed the best, talked to you and asked you what happened, and didn’t focus on fault but solutions? How would you feel about them then?

Give the benefit of the doubt. Too often we assume the worst and don’t take the time to check our assumptions. We think we know what happened – but we really don’t.

Assume positive intent. If someone came across rudely, assume they didn’t mean it or something else is bothering them, and talk to them based on that assumption.

If someone messes up a report, don’t assume they were just being lazy or inept, assume they did their best and talk to them based on that assumption to find out what went wrong.

Then, don’t focus on blame, even if they are at fault, focus on learning and solutions.

13. Doing the “dirty” work with them

Think about it: If you had a boss that would never “lower” him/herself to do some of the work you did – he/she was “above” it, what would your thoughts be compared to a boss who would jump in with you, especially when it was hard, no matter the task, to help you get it done?

Be a leader who does the “dirty” work with your team. Don’t be above any kind of work – because you aren’t.

It’s not that you should be doing the work for them or that you don’t have other duties, but by being willing to jump in, do the dirty work with them, and help them especially when it’s crunch time or it’s work that really isn’t too pleasing, you build loyalty and influence with your team.

14. Listen to your team and their ideas (and implement what is good)

Think about it: If you had a boss who never would listen to you or your ideas or input, how would that make you feel?

One of the biggest tragedies and causes of low morale and engagement in the workplace is that employees don’t feel heard. When they try to give input, no one listens, or they just smile, pretend to listen, then ignore it.

Too often leaders think they know best or better when they really don’t. They are detached and don’t realize they are detached.

When you listen to your team, it shows you care about them, their voice, and their input. And the truth is, your team is the one doing the work every day. They likely have great ideas on how to improve things.

Listen to them and their ideas. Implement what you can, and if you can’t, if possible, let them know why. Make sure they know their ideas and voices are heard, and that you want to hear what they have to say.

15. Recognize and show appreciation

Recognize and show appreciation

Think about it: If you had a boss who never said thank you or acknowledged anything you did, how would that make you feel?

Appreciation is huge. It’s motivating. People want to be acknowledged and recognized for their work.

Take the time to recognize people and say thank you. Show appreciation. Be specific about what they did.

Try to show appreciation at least once a week, if possible.

Listen to the podcast “Episode 14: 7 Key Ways to Build Influence As A Leader

You can build your influence

These 15 tips are powerful tools use can use to build your influence and grow to be a better leader.

Remember, too, that it is a process. You aren’t going to have an amazing influence on your first day on a job as a manager or leader. But the actions you take starting day one can lay the foundation for building great influence with your team.

Be trustworthy, trust your team, care about, listen, and show appreciation to your team, acknowledge your mistakes, and take ownership.

Over time, you will be the leader that inspires and that others want to follow.

Do you have any other tips on how to grow your influence as a leader? Let us know in the comments below.

You can find more related articles here.


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