How Leaders Gain Influence: Actions


John Maxwell outlines five actions that are essential for anyone wanting to gain influence in their family, community, or workplace.

Influence doesn’t come to us instantaneously; it increases gradually. Nor does influence develop by accident. Instead, it grows as we purposefully take action to earn the trust and win the respect of others. In this post, I outline five actions essential for anyone aspiring to gain influence in their family, community, or workplace.

1) An influencer enlarges people.

If you want a quick-and-easy test of your leadership, simply look around at your people and ask: are they growing? As Alan Loy McGinnis said, “There is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being—to help someone succeed.” Leaders make their people better, helping them to go higher than they could have by themselves.

2) An influencer navigates for people.

On whitewater raft trips, before travelers ever enter the water, the guide warns them of the dangers that lie ahead. During the voyage, before reaching particularly rough stretches, the guide pulls over to the riverbank and leads rafters uphill to show them upcoming rapids and whirlpools. That way, the rafters can see ahead of time the hazards they are going to encounter.

Like rafting guides, leaders have the responsibility to look ahead, spot problems, and inform others of difficulties looming in the distance. Additionally, leaders take responsibility for charting the course ahead. That is, they’re not only problem-spotters but also solution-givers. An influencer leads others through rough terrain that they could never navigate on their own.

As a leader, you can always make the trip faster by traveling solo. However, your goal as an influencer isn’t to be done first, but to have someone with you when you cross the finish line. The most rewarding success is shared success.

3) An influencer connects with people.

Singer/songwriter Joan Baez once commented, “The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people. The hardest is with one.” Indeed, personal relationships demand large amounts of energy and commitment, and the skill of connecting with people often represents the missing link for those in leadership positions. For some reason, people in authority assume those below them are responsible for initiating contact. Their mindset is that, “I’m the leader; others should come to me.” Nothing could be more counterproductive to gaining influence.

Leaders have the responsibility to reach out to their people and to discover the personal agendas and needs of those they lead. Charisma does not come from having an outgoing personality. Rather, charismatic leaders are those who, whenever they enter a room, proactively search for ways to make others feel welcome and valued.

4) An influencer empowers people.

While enlarging people deals with their individual growth, empowering people involves their growth within the organization. Empowerment starts when we see great promise in an individual, and then speak encouraging, uplifting words in order to make them aware of their potential for greatness. Empowerment also means sharing your power, position, and influence with them so that they experience opportunities to grow that they could not arrange on their own. Finally, empowerment means showing others that you believe in them. Don’t just build them up privately; praise them publicly.  

5) An influencer reproduces other leaders

Plows and bulldozers are both useful machines for moving earth, but they operate in very different ways. A plow turns over the earth, stirs it up, and aerates it so that the soil becomes a good place for seeds to grow. A bulldozer scrapes up the earth and shoves it aside.

Is your leadership style more reminiscent of a plow or a bulldozer? That is, do you cultivate your people in order to maximize their potential for growth, or do you simply push them wherever you need them to go? Great leaders do not merely give orders to subordinates; they multiply their influence by developing the leadership capacity of their people.


Which habits of action have allowed you to develop influence? What is one action you would like to change in order to upgrade your influence?

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