Leadership isn’t just about a title. If you aspire to lead people and drive change, understanding and maximizing your influence is a skill you must master regardless of your title. True leaders don’t force others to join them; they leverage the art of influence to motivate others. 

According to Harvard Business Review, influence is the ability to affect the character, development, or behavior of someone. It is integral to driving change and reaching business goals. And much like leadership styles, there are different types of influence both leaders and individual contributors can develop. In this article, we’ll examine two kinds of influence and ways you can grow effective influence.

Transactional influence vs. transformational influence

Before you can begin to tap into your influence, you must understand which type of influence suits your leadership style. There are two primary types of influence: transactional and transformational.

Research suggests that transformational influence is more important to master than transactional in the modern workplace. And it’s easy to see why those who aspire to lead would be more inclined toward it. Leading with empathy towards your employees will set yourself and your company for longer-term success. 

6 ways to build transformational influence

So, how do you build influence without authority? Here are six elements to help you establish transformational influence now and throughout your career. 

  1. Build relationships: Spend time getting to know all your stakeholders and individuals on your team. Influential leaders earn reputations of trust and credibility with their employees through relationships, not just order-taking. 
  2. Listen: Effective influence is rooted in empathy, of which active listening is vital. When listening to colleagues, make sure you’re putting aside your biases, being consistent with your communication, and acting on what you hear from them.
  3. Show commitment: If you are not committed to your team, why would they trust and believe in you? Find ways to show you are committed to the group and the individuals, not just the tasks they complete for you. Share your vision for what success looks like, why their roles are vital, and build growth opportunities for them along the way.
  4. Show appreciation: The simple act of appreciating your team members — whether through a few words of praise at the end of the week or recognizing their role in a project — makes a big difference in their motivation.
  5. Be open to influence: Influence must be reciprocal. Allow others to shape and advance your thinking as well. Being open to influence helps others trust you and builds your influence capital in the future. 
  6. Exhibit emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is a foundational trait for influence, and social awareness is key to emotional intelligence. Pay attention to nonverbal communication, and look for ways to solve problems that minimize tensions when conflict arises.

Mastering the art of influence

Even if you’re not currently in a leadership role, learning how to build transformational influence is important at any stage in your career. The power of influence lifts your team’s morale, encourages employees to meet and exceed goals, and builds a motivated workforce. Get more ideas on how to uplevel your leadership development or the development of future leaders on your team in Reimagining Leadership Development for a Multi-Generational Workforce.