How to be a more influential leader

If you are a leader, or you want to become a leader, you need to learn how to use influence properly. Influence will help you to attract other people to your work, to listen to what you say and then to take actions that you would like them to. This might happen within your own organisation when you are trying to influence others up or down the hierarchy, or if you want to influence outside the organisation- for example by getting the public to donate to your charity or to change their behaviour in the interests of a particular cause.

Of course, you need to decide why you want to have influence in the first place. If you don’t do that you won’t be as effective as you won’t have real passion and drive behind what you do. Of course, if the influence you want to have doesn’t align well with where you are currently working (or volunteering), it may even be time to move on.

Once you are clear on why you want influence, you also need to pick some other influential people that you feel you will be able to learn from. These may be your immediate peers, a mentor or even someone in an entirely different field who influences the world in a way you admire. To give a random example – I’m influenced by the chef, Anthony Bourdain. I’m not a chef myself, (or even a particularly good cook!) but I am passionate about food and travel and he combines both in such a brilliant, unstudied, human way. I incorporate some of his lessons into my own life as an influencer and a leader.

To help you think about specific ways in which you grow your influence, here is an article I wrote for LinkedIn:

Five Ways You Can Have Greater Influence

The five areas I cover are:

  • ‘Likeability’– Do people want to get to know you and interact with you?
  • Networks – Do you have good offline and online networks?
  • Personal Branding – Are you in control of your own brand?
  • Expertise – What do other people know you for?
  • Authenticity – Do you know your authentic self and are you sharing it with others?

In the modern world, we need leaders who are flexible enough to use influence in a wide variety of situations. Leaders have an entirely new dimension in which they now need to be influential – the online world – and the methods to reach their audience are changing all the time. In addition, to be a leader in modern times you don’t even have to be part of an organisation. Growing numbers of people are going freelance and with an internet connection you can be influential from anywhere. I tested this recently when my wife and I lived in Gran Canaria as digital nomads for several months.

Whatever your leadership style is and whatever your leadership ambitions, understanding how to influence other people and growing your influence over time will make a huge difference. Humans have influenced each other since the dawn of time and the tools that you currently have at your disposal are greater than almost anyone in history before you. Good luck on your own journey of influence.


Alex Swallow is The Influence Expert, (site just launched!) and a social entrepreneur who is the Founder of Young Charity Trustees and the Owner of Social Good Six. Alex was previously the Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition.

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