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Learn what influential and effective leaders do differently

Leaders can enjoy a lot of success, but that next leap requires leveraging their relationships, expertise and influence. Here's how.

5 min read


Learn what influential and effective leaders do differently


As a leader, you’ve spent years in your chosen field building the skills and tools it takes to have a positive impact on your company’s success.

Think about all you’ve accomplished on your journey. Chances are, you have credibility, expertise and experience, and they’ve been noticed. People look to you for advice on matters in your area and perhaps even outside your realm of direct knowledge. It’s a great feeling to have this level of influence, to be considered a trusted partner in your business – someone people look to, to help get the job done.

The most valued leaders in a company are able to leverage their reputation to make a lasting, positive effect on their organization. If you want to become a more influential leader who is a driving force change, read below for six essential traits on how to really make your mark and become one of the key decision makers in your company.

1. Don’t wait to be asked

Be more proactive in making your voice heard. In meetings or discussions, try to prepare yourself ahead of time – research the situation, plan your standpoint and know what you want to say so that you can speak up early and often. Plan to speak to your vision of change, and reinforce your brand as a change maker.

Being prepped and ready to talk about the topic at hand will position you to drive the conversation toward the change you’d like to make.

2. Make bold decisions

Making your mark means stepping away from the popular thinking and the way things have “always been done.” If you’re going to enact change, bold decisions will often be required. It’s hard to make a real difference by only following other people’s actions; if you know something has to be different, step up and say so, even if it might initially be an unpopular stance.

Stay true to your conviction, even if you get resistance or pushback. You’ll need to be creative, unconventional and innovative, and maybe even ruffle a few feathers to bring about change. Do it anyway, when you know it’s needed.

3. Leverage your reputation

Don’t be afraid to utilize the credibility and respect you have to influence people toward change. You have worked hard to build a solid reputation, so when you really put yourself behind an idea, people will want to follow. Be bold, and use your influence to persuade and convince others to support the direction in which you want to take your company or group.

4. Embrace change

Change is hard, there’s no question. One of the first steps will be stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing that which is different, or maybe even unknown. As hard as change is for you, it will be as hard or harder for others, but when you show leadership and demonstrate passion for a new direction, you can bring others along.

Conviction, even enthusiasm, signals to others that you are setting out on the right path; you give people the ability to embrace change when you first embrace it yourself.

5. Build relationships

Even as you use your reputation to influence direction, don’t forget to continue to build the relationships you will need to sustain your position as a trusted leader. What do your internal stakeholders care about? What do those with established authority and influence see in your organization’s future? Who shares your vision for transformation?

Be sure to continue to build that rapport. Even as you continue to enact change, there are innumerable opportunities to leverage the power and influence of people toward common goals. This two-minute video describes how to build relationships for increased influence.

6. Be strategic

Being a leader for change requires you to have a strategy. What is the end game you are trying to achieve? Can you explain it to others? People will want to follow and believe in your bold decisions if you can clearly and confidently articulate the goals and the strategy you wish to accomplish. Transformational leadership requires clear communication techniques to persuade others to follow. Think about how you will fill others in on the whys and the whats of your vision and be prepared to explain with conviction.

To become more influential, first start with this assessment on influence. It provides you with the top 10 areas you must emphasize (or focus on) to be influential.

To be a changemaker, think about how you can use the tools you already have at hand. Take stock of your reputation, your credibility and your relationships. You may have more weight to “rock the boat” in your organization than you think.

If you have a clear vision for the change you want to make, you can leverage your influence, build your executive presence and make your mark by making a difference. Be bold, make a plan, and start today!


Joel Garfinkle is an executive coach. His recent client was a newly promoted CIO. We leveraged the above six steps to improve his influence as a leader with the board, CEO and other senior executives. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the US and is the author of 11 books. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and learn from the 75 of Garfinkle’s 2-minute inspirational video clips at his YouTube channel.

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