Like Respect, Influence Must Be Earned

It’s easy to influence when we’re in charge – or at least, it’s easier. We can simply provide directions and expect people to follow through.

But what about all the situations when we’re not in charge, but need to inspire change through others? The absence of a title won’t remove the responsibility to achieve a beneficial outcome.

Influence is the uniquely human ability to inspire action in others, not because they have to, but because they want to.

But, how? That’s the million dollar question. Like respect, the ability to influence doesn’t come all at once. It must be earned over time.

If you want to influence people – here are the three needs you must address before people will willingly invite your influence.


If you are going to influence people to take action, you must first develop the empathy and discipline to understand what they need, desire and value. Then frame your request through the lens of their own motivation. Demonstrate that by completing the action, they are more likely to receive what they want. In essence, they aren’t helping you, they are helping themselves.


People may want to do as you request, but any action requires a level of knowledge and skill to complete. You won’t be able to provide all of this yourself, but it’s your role to be resourceful by anticipating these needs upfront and providing timely access when appropriate.


This is by far the most under-appreciated aspect of influence – the ease at which an action can be completed. The more difficult, complicated or time-consuming a task takes, the less motivation and ability matter. To influence change, the action you request should represent the easiest possible option. Practically speaking, this means it takes the least amount of time, the least amount of steps, the fewest decision-points and the fewest complications. Ideally, it should be easier to do it the right way than the wrong way! When you bring a highly feasible solution to the table, people will thank you, rather than resist!

But influence isn’t just about following the right steps. Ultimately, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a heart to serve others, rather than simply enlisting others to serve your agenda. To win the heart, we must genuinely become the type of person others are wiling to be influenced by.

Just as you don’t need a title to influence others, the absence of a title doesn’t exclude you. You’re never too unqualified to set a good example. When you’re willing to serve others, you become eligible to influence.

Remember, if you can’t lead without authority, you’ll never be able to lead with authority… because leadership depends on the ability to influence.

This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:

Influence & Persuading Others


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