To move any organization forward, C-Suite executives need to be adept at selling ideas, gaining acceptance for strategic plans, shaping policy, influencing senior management and generating buy-ins from employees and clients. One key ingredient to becoming a management guru is using influence and thought leadership for sustainable evolutionary and revolutionary change. Influential leaders inspire others to accomplish ideas without the need to use their power of authority.
Here are a few powerful steps to developing and maintaining managerial influence:
1. Determine your entrepreneurial style.
In 2014, a Gallup poll of over 500 business leaders determined there are essentially three entrepreneurial “styles”. These styles are as a result of an assessment highlighting an entrepreneur’s preferred style of operation. Activation entrepreneurs are forceful: they make things happen. Strategic entrepreneurs are big-picture thinkers: they are creative and take the long view. Relational entrepreneurs are highly self-aware: they expand their businesses by building strong relationships. It’s clear from this study that great business leaders and entrepreneurs have no one mode of operating, but they possess a sound and strategic mindset, which enables them to formulate a vision and execute internally. They know their business well and ensure that the activities of their unit or department are well aligned with the organization’s goals. Whether this means taking risks, thinking of the big picture, forging strong relationships or using a combination of these key styles, a successful entrepreneur has to be aware.
2. Develop an executive presence.
One key trait of successful entrepreneurs is quite frankly the ability to persuade others. The truth is, most of your business life will be spent selling to someone, whether a colleague, partner, client or an employee. To enhance your persuasive factor, initiate discussions using emotional intelligence. You can accomplish this by seeking to understand the mindset of all members of the group and by also understanding your colleagues’ agenda and how they fit into the business strategy. Start by actively soliciting the thoughts of the group and listening respectfully to all members of the committee regardless of their rank or role.
One key factor that goes hand-in-hand with persuasiveness is the undeniable ability to establish win-win relationships with others. Start by embracing the same standards of professionalism and behavior that you set for yourself. People value working in positive and respectful environments. To get the very best out of your people, lead with genuine interest and transparency. Executive presence is really about having a charismatic personality that enables you to command attention from those who you lead. You can have the best experience and top qualifications to match but without executive presence, you might fail to advance the origination’s strategy or goal. The ability to project confidence, decisiveness, communication and poise under pressure also contributes to a person’s perceived executive presence. This can be achieved by working on visible projects that others will notice, or being available during tough situations to make rational decisions with credibility and ease.
3. Knowledge is power.
“Most people just work. A few people become efficient when they work. And [successful people]balance efficiency with continual learning. There’s just no comparison.” — Simon Reynolds.
Successful entrepreneurs exude knowledge in their field because it allows for the natural creation of a personal brand based on specific and established expertise. Entrepreneurs are consummate students of knowledge possessing a great wealth of information at their fingertips. This enables them to practice knowledge-based leadership, using this as a platform for powering their business. Any entrepreneur that is serious about going to the next level must cultivate an insatiable passion for knowledge by engaging in continuous learning. The key to this is simply remembering, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society…” — Kofi Annan.
As noted by Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar or Chip Conley, author of PEAK: Attaining the status of a guru will not happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort.