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How Leaders Gain Influence: Attitudes

By John C. Maxwell | May 22, 2013
How Leaders Gain Influence: Attitudes

A lot of people come to me confounded by their inability to drive positive outcomes in their organization. They have brilliant plans and excellent practices for leading their teams, and yet they are not experiencing success. How can these leaders be doing the right things but still be getting the wrong results? The reason is that although they’re polished on the exterior, they have a messy interior life.

Regardless of what leaders say or which strategies they put forward, at the end of the day people read and respond to a leader’s prevailing attitudes. Influence is an inside job; what happens in you determines what happens through you. In other words, your inward dispositions dictate your relational position with others. In this lesson, I identify five attitudes that are absolutely vital for any leader looking to gain influence.

1) Influencers desire integrity with people.

A joint study conducted by the UCLA Graduate School of Management and Korn/Ferry International of New York City surveyed 1300 business executives, asking them to list five qualities necessary to be a successful, up-and-coming leader. 100% of the respondents ranked integrity in their top five, and 71% of the executives put integrity at the top of the list. In leadership, virtually any shortcoming can eventually be overcome. However, when leaders lose credibility on account of a lack of integrity, they are seldom entrusted with significant responsibility again.

2) Influencers aspire to nurture people.

The length and breadth of our influence with others depends on the depth of our concern for others. Many leaders love their title more than their teammates. When that happens, they soon lose their position.

On a past visit to China, I took an educational tour of the country and learned about the many peasant revolts that have occurred throughout its history. Typically, only three generations elapsed before the people once again rebelled against the group of peasants who had previously risen to the top. The lesson for me was how quickly we forget how it feels NOT to have authority. In other words, aspiring leaders often pledge to serve and nurture people while politicking for a position of influence. However, once they actually end up in authority, they usually leverage their power for personal gain.

3) Influencers have faith in people.

Material resources make things possible; human resources make things happen. When leading others, leaders cannot harbor feelings of fear, contempt, or dislike. If we are afraid of people, we will be too intimidated to lead them. If we dislike people, we will not have their best interests in mind. If we look down on people, we will treat them as inferiors. Influence comes when we add value to people. But we’re only add value to people once we’re able to see value in people.

4) Influencers listen to people.

Neglecting to listen is a primary flaw of leaders. By nature, I’m a lousy listener. I am eager to cast vision, to activate people, and to achieve results. Listening seems like a waste of time. However, listening communicates value to others, lends insight into our surroundings, and saves us from our own blind spots. Over the years, I’ve disciplined myself to become a better listener, for I have learned that hearing others boosts my influence immensely.  

5) Influencers seek to understand people.

In my career, I’ve sought to relate with those around me on a heart-to-heart level. The dreams and passions stored within hearts are powerful sources of energy and motivation. When you make the effort to understand and encourage others’ dreams, you both unlock their potential and earn their respect.

Attitude Check:
Review the five statements below. Which ones accurately describe you? In which areas might you need an attitude adjustment?

  • I do my utmost to act with integrity in my relationships.
  • I look for ways to nurture those on my team.
  • I have faith in my teammates and value their contributions.
  • I want to hear what others have to say.
  • I proactively learn about the dreams and passions of my people.

I would enjoy hearing your insights and input on the link between attitude and influence. Please share your comments below.

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