Leaders must influence others in order to achieve goals, and they must gain the respect of followers in order to influence them. This is no easy task, but if you want to have the respect of your followers and become an influential leader, these simple rules will help you whether you are just beginning your leadership journey or have been leading for many years.
1. Find your style and inspire
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is cultivate self-awareness. Knowing your leadership style will help you to be more intentional about using it well and managing its shortcomings. Do you lead with expertise? Charisma? Caring? Armed with this awareness, you can leverage your unique style to become more influential and inspire others.
2. Demonstrate integrity
Nothing can ruin your influence and respect faster than a lack of integrity. Integrity, however, is not just avoiding unethical choices and situations. Integrity is intentionally molding a culture of values and service.
3. Finish your homework
As a leader, the more you know about what you are getting into, the more prepared you are to address it well. This could be hard data like market research, competitive analysis, and customer satisfaction trends, or informal research that comes from asking around. Leaders get informed and stay informed.
4. Invest in yourself
Leaders invest in learning. Grow your expertise. Get certified. Cross train. The more you know, the more you can help. The greater your competence, the more others will respect you and the effort you made to learn about what they do.
5. Manage your brand
Leaders understand the importance of perception. Ensure that your strengths are not being perceived negatively by asking for feedback, engaging in 360 assessments, and communicating proactively what you intend to accomplish with a particular action or question.
6. Concentrate on the future
A leader’s job is to interact with the future on behalf of constituents. Spend time doing things that only you can do, delegating other important areas to competent team members. Establish a vision, and keep your gaze focused on the overall goal. Resist the temptation to spend too much time solving day to day problems if they are costing you progress toward your vision.
7. Understand people personally
Great leaders get to know their people. What are their hobbies? What are their kids’ names? What are they good at? What motivates them? Demonstrate a genuine interest in people. Care about them. Create a culture where people feel supported personally, not just professionally.
8. Position people professionally
By understanding their people, leaders are better equipped to help them be successful. Put them in places that will foster professional growth and help them achieve their career goals. When people succeed in their careers and enjoy the jobs they are doing, the organization benefits in turn.
9. Praise liberally
When people do a good job, make sure they know it. Some will want an email, others an announcement in a meeting, still others a monetary reward. Whatever the case, if it lies within your power, grant it. There is no such thing as too much sincere appreciation for a job well done.
10. Coach and advocate
Help people. Be a resource, a sounding board, a safe place to talk. If you want the people you lead to respect you, they need to know you are on their side. Advocate for them; help them get the promotion they’ve been hoping for. Leverage your influence on their behalf.
11. Forge partnerships
Self-aware leaders understand the folly of trying to be all things to all people. It is impossible to be an expert in everything. Instead, surround yourself with people who possess qualities you lack. If you lack detail orientation, bring in someone who is organized. If you forget to ask for input at meetings, ask someone who is more naturally inclusive to bring it up.
12. Ask before telling
Leaders listen. Don’t assume you know the answer to a question you haven’t asked. Inform your perspective with the input of others. Invite skepticism. Only after this vetting process can you be certain you have made the right assignments or decision.
13. Anticipate and optimize
Always think ahead. Ask yourself: “What could go wrong here?” “What if the market changes?” “Is there anything else we can do to make success more likely?” These questions help leaders create the best possible plan. Once executed, be sure to revisit, using the feedback you gain to optimize and tweak where necessary.
14. Take risks
Without risk, no reward exists. Leaders take risks, but before they do, they minimize them by soliciting information and perspectives. After that, they move forward courageously, trusting themselves and their people.
15. Expect greatness
Never settle. Leaders persist toward perfection. They remain steadfast in the belief that our best days are ahead of us, and work toward making that true. Paint the picture of what it will look like when we get there.
Inspire and become an influential leader—respect will come.