Whether our office (and title) resides on the C level or not, influencing is an integral part of our daily lives and perhaps more importantly, our careers. It has been my experience, that no matter what your title or circumstance, you have the power to influence those around you in a negative or positive way. I have identified four traits that give you influence whether you have the job title or not – likability, strong relationships, expertise and inspiration.
Because we are all familiar with him, let’s take a look at one famous face who recently bestowed his influence on the people of the United States.
Pope Francis recently visited the U.S. for the first time and was welcomed with fanfare more often associated with a rock star than the leader of the Catholic Church.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates
Wise words from Microsoft’s co-founder & former CEO, now philanthropist.
That quote is especially relevant to two specific occasions in Microsoft’s history in 2012 and 1995 — when the tech giant had epic fails during live product launch presentations.
The most recent incident featured Microsoft’s former President of Windows and Windows Live Division, Steven Sinofsky, as he delivered the official launch presentation for the Surface tablet. Right in the middle of his presentation, the tablet seemed to crash, resulting in a painful 20 seconds where he said, “Excuse me just a second” before running to grab a backup tablet behind a lectern that was ready to go.
At a conference last month, I sat next to a professionally dressed and extremely articulate young man who’d recently been hired as COO of a medical services company.
“What are your biggest challenges?” I asked him.
He went on to explain that his board of directors was unhappy because profits had plateaued. His R&D staff was not very innovative. The HR systems were not efficient. The IT department was slow to fix issues. And the sales staff was barely meeting quotas. By the time he finished talking, there were few departments in his organization left that hadn’t been targeted for blame.
“So, where does the responsibility for all of these problems lay?” I asked, genuinely curious to hear how he’d answer.
The man silently stared at me for about a minute.
A colleague’s daughter contacted me recently after being passed over twice for a choice promotion. She told me she really wanted to advance in the company, but didn’t seem to have what they were looking for.
“I’m responsible, easy to work with, and really good at my job,” she said to me.
“So what do you think is missing?” I asked … already knowing what she’d say.
She confirmed my suspicions: “I’m just not being perceived as a leader or someone who can effectively manage projects and teams.”
I believe that leadership presence is a combination of character traits and skills that can be learned. People must first identify — and embrace — their areas of strengths and opportunities for growth before embarking on a quest for leadership recognition.
A recent participant in a BRODY training program contacted me last week via e-mail.
“I’ve been put in charge of a large project and was told to choose my own team from any departments in the organization,” she wrote. “If successful, it will be the beginning of a whole new direction for our company. I’m very excited.”
She went on to tell me that as she was still fairly new to the company, she didn’t have a title that afforded her any genuine authority. In fact, some of the colleagues she wanted for her team were far more senior than her.
The participant then asked, “Why would these new team members listen to someone without any authority over them? Won’t they resent me?”
This is a classic work dilemma.