Written by: Brian Smith
Original by: Industry Today

As a human, your influence is your single biggest responsibility on earth. You begin influencing others the moment you are born, perhaps even the moment you are conceived and known, before you are even aware of your influence. Your influence is extensive and covers nearly every area of your life. Even when you are alone you cannot escape your own influence.

Your influence shapes and grows as you grow, and changes as you change. You can even decide how to wield your influence in each moment. If you are confused as to what your individual influence is up to this point, you need to understand your foundation and who you are inside and out. When you understand your influence, you can be a great leader. When you’re a great leader, you can guide your team to complete company and personal goals.

Your Foundation

To understand your influence, you must first understand yourself. How can you be a productive team member and lead others if you don’t know yourself first? By knowing yourself, you can embrace your strengths and weaknesses with an open mind, and you can remain transparent with all your team members. Your weaknesses are only dire if you allow them to drag you and your team down. If you acknowledge them, then your team will be able to help support you where you lack in a positive way. Showing your weaknesses is one of the most endearing strengths as a team member.

One way to understand your strengths and weaknesses is to reflect on yourself, over time, and document your thoughts. Another is to ask people who are close to you what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, from their perspective. To understand your foundation, you will need to reflect on your life’s memories and analyze them. These exercises will take time and shouldn’t be rushed, but they are worth it to understand your influence on others.

Communication

Poor communication within your team may be one of the quickest ways to bring down your team. Communication must be clear, concise, and you should always check for understanding. This is where the first hurdle comes in; you can’t always expect people to know exactly the context of where you are delivering information from. In other words, people may not always have all the information that you already have, so it is important to provide as much detail as possible so that you all can remain on the same page.

Avoid delivering negative information in writing to any team member. Speak to them personally, either face-to-face, on the phone, or in a video conference. Negative information, when delivered in writing, can often seem much worse than it is. By delivering the information in person, you can explain yourself more clearly and control the tone in which the information is delivered. Any negative information offers each party a unique opportunity to brainstorm ideas to improve their influence.

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

Are you a boss, or are you a leader? Do you lead with a, “Do as I say, not as I do,” mentality? Imitation of those that influence us is how a vast majority of individuals develop leadership skills. The biggest difference between individuals who consider themselves a boss and those who consider themselves a leader is that a leader sets examples through action. A boss will use phrases such as, “Because I said so,” or, “Just do what I say,” or, “I am the boss.” However, actions speak louder than words when it comes to earning respect and creating an environment where leaders are held in high esteem. The way you lead is the way you influence your team.

To be a leader and not a boss, you must understand your influence and use it in a positive way. When you positively influence your team, you lead them by example. If you are confronted to do as you say, you strive to be accountable for your words through action. As an influential leader, you engage with your team to improve your collective influence as a company and as individuals. You lead a company that uses problems as opportunities for learning and growth, creating positive change.

You spend every moment of your life influencing others or yourself. Your influence is your single biggest responsibility as it has the capacity to build up or diminish others. This isn’t something you should only be aware of at work; you influence your family, friends, and strangers too. It is your responsibility to influence yourself and our world positively. You owe it to yourself and those around you.