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Master the Different Ways to Influence People Based on Your Current Relationship

Executive Summary

Does it often seem like building influence is a one-size-fits-all endeavor? Have you always believed that how one person views your influence in their life is how every person views your influence? Then you might be happy to know that both assumptions are false.

  • There are different ways to influence people based on the stage and function of your relationship.
  • You can gain and lose influence with someone over the course of a day, month, or year. It’s a number that is in constant flux and dependent on the effort you put into shifting it.
  • Pick two or three people in your life with which you would like to build influence and work your way up the leadership ladder. Cultivate followers that stick around because they want to, not because they have to.

One of the great challenges of applying the 5 Levels of Leadership is that you must earn each level of influence with every person in your life.

For a quick recap of the levels, watch this:

While it’s true that your level of influence with others is either increasing or decreasing every day, you will find it beneficial to focus your attention on intentionally increasing your influence with only a limited number of people at first. For that reason, I suggest you pick two people in your life right now with whom to intentionally build your influence.

Choose one important person from your professional life, maybe your boss, a key team member, a colleague, or a client. And choose one important person from your personal life, perhaps your spouse, your child, a parent, or a neighbor. (Yes, it is possible to be on only the Position level with your spouse or child, and yes, you have to earn—or re-earn—influence at the higher levels.) If you are a high-capacity person with lots of ambition and energy, you may choose three people.

There Isn’t Just One--The Different Ways to Influence People in Your Life

First, determine which level of leadership you are currently on with each person. Then use the following guidelines to begin earning the level above your current one and to strengthen your influence at the lower levels.

Level 1: Position—Influence Based on Rights

  • Know your role or job description thoroughly.
  • Do your job with consistent excellence.
  • Do more than expected.
  • Accept responsibility for yourself and your leadership.
  • Learn from every leadership opportunity.
  • Be aware of the history that impacts personal dynamics.
  • Don’t rely on your position or title to help you lead.

Level 2: Permission—Influence Based on Relationship

  • Value the other person.
  • Learn to see through the other person’s eyes by asking questions.
  • Care more about the person than about the rules.
  • Include the other person in your journey by shifting your focus from me to we.
  • Make the other person’s success your goal.
  • Practice servant leadership.

Level 3: Production—Influence Based on Results

  • Initiate and accept responsibility for your own personal growth.
  • Develop accountability for results, beginning with yourself.
  • Lead by example and produce results.
  • Help the other person find and give his or her best contribution.

Level 4: People Development—Influence Based on Reproduction

  • Embrace the idea that people are your most valuable asset.
  • Be open and honest about your growth journey.
  • Expose the other person to growth and leadership opportunities.
  • Place the person in the best place to be successful.

Level 5: Pinnacle—Influence Based on Respect

  • Focus your influence on the most promising 20 percent of the people you lead.
  • Teach and encourage them to develop other high-level leaders.
  • Leverage your influence to advance the organization.
  • Use your influence outside the organization to make a difference.

Excerpted with permission from Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 by John Maxwell, copyright John Maxwell.

Bring It Home

As a former journalist, I am all too familiar with the concept of influence. I judged sources for news stories by their influence (what title did they have, how close to the story were they, and would readers recognize them as an authority?). Judgement is a two-way street, and sources often questioned my credentials. What publication did I write for? Was I a beat reporter or working on general assignment? We were sizing each other up and determining whether or not we could trust one another to keep our best interests in mind.

Of the many different ways to influence people, developing a reputation of honesty, accountability, and compassion is the most effective one. By respecting my sources, communicating how I might attribute their quotes and information, and writing a fair and factual article, I built influence and a network of potential interviewees. How have you strengthened your influence within an organization or social group? Tell us what strategies have worked for you at the end of this article!

John Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and author who has sold over 19 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, organizations that have trained more than 5 million leaders worldwide.

In 1993, John C. Maxwell’s now-classic work revolutionized the way leaders are made. By examining the differences between leadership styles, Maxwell outlines principles for inspiring, motivating, and influencing others from any type of leadership position--including as a business executive, a church leader, a teacher, or even a parent. Now the author has returned to his best seller to include the leadership insights and practices he has learned in the decades since the book first appeared.

Thoroughly revised and with two additional chapters, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 has updated these foundational principles and promises to provide for both new readers as well as longtime fans of the original book the necessary wisdom to help any leader and organization succeed in fostering integrity, self-discipline, and effecting positive change.Develop your vision. Develop your value. Develop the leader within you.

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