If you want to be an effective leader, in business, your profession, the creative arts, social service, community, school… wherever you want to lead – a great place to start your journey is with understanding influence.

Understand who you are already influencing. Look for who else you’d like to influence and start to understand what you might need to do to position yourself to influence those people.

But understand this – influence is not something that gets handed to you with position.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter who is at the head of an organization if they are not the person with the most influence. Remember how the kid at the top of the class wasn’t necessarily the person who determined whether or not you made into the cool group?

Remember in university, when the most popular lecturers didn’t necessarily have the flashest office or the longest, most impressive title.

Influence is about calibre and character. Influence is people who choose to listen to what you have to say. Influence is the number of people who respond to what you think, say, act and implement in your life and leadership practice. Every time you connect and engage – you build trust, which is a greenhouse for influence in relationships.

First, be aware of who you are influencing, what your message is and how you can influence change for the better. This isn’t about getting your way but about facilitating the right conversations and opportunities for other.

If there was one thing I want you to understand about leadership and influence; it’s that influencing those above you and beside you is far more powerful and rewarding than influencing those below you in the hierarchy. There’s a flow-on effect too. Seek to bring as many people beside you as you can, multiplying influence.

That means bringing people together to create opportunities in business, opportunities for social change, opportunities for relationship. The best matchmakers in history are people who influence the opinions and actions of others.

These posts were originally broadcast in a radio series, in 2009. If you are interested in talking more about leadership or you’d like me to speak with your team about maximizing their leadership skills – just get in touch.