Leadership Caffeine™-The Importance of Cultivating Your Influence

How much influence do you have as a leader in your organization?

Are you master of your own domain, running a tight ship in your functional area and controlling the flow of people and ideas in and out of your four walls?

Or, are you a leader whose reach and reputation extend across boundaries and up and down the organizational ladder?

While your own level of influence might not be something that crosses your mind on a daily basis, your relative level of influence in your organization is at least one reasonable proxy for measuring your effectiveness as a leader.

Much like trust, the precious commodity of influence is earned over time based on a great number of exposures. True influence…the kind where people seek you out and value your input and involve you and look to you to lead, isn’t bestowed by a title, it’s born of hard work.

Influence is developed early in a career by working in the trenches, doing your part to master your craft, doing what you say you’ll do and treating others with respect. Add in a dash of helping others…newcomers and those that can use a boost, and suddenly the view on you begins to change.

She’s someone we respect.

Respect begets trust and trust is the foundation of influence.

Leaders have the added challenge of growing influence on a larger field, and that involves dealing with the Double P: Power & Politics. Ignore these at your own peril. Learn to understand where power lies and cultivate your skills in legitimately pursuing power, and you will grow your influence. Be aware of politics, and instead of denying it, use ethical finesse in coping with and managing it. Eyes wide open, please.

3 Keys to Cultivating Power and Growing Influence:

Power is usually waiting for someone to pick it up and run with it.

1. Find problems.

2. Involve others and start fixing the problems with energy and enthusiasm that opens eyes.

3. Create heroes.

10 Questions to Help Assess Your Level of Influence:

1. Are you often selected to participate (or better yet, lead) high visibility projects?

2. Are your former team members well established in positions of authority around the organization?

3. Is your function or team a destination of choice for high quality people from across your business?

4. Are you asked to mentor others, or, do you serve as an informal mentor for people from around the organization?

5. Are you visible to senior managers and executives as someone who makes things happen?

6. Do other managers ask about and recruit the talent on your team?

7. Are you known as a leader who helps people push through job level and compensation limits?

8. Are you known for helping people create careers?

9. Are you well networked (beyond the superficial level) in your organization, from top to bottom?

10. Can you get senior-level face time when you ask for it?

The Bottom-Line for Now:

If you can answer a good number of the 10 questions above in the affirmative, you are on your way to cultivating influence in an ethical manner. If the answers are genuinely, “no,” it’s time for some leadership soul searching. Find some people you trust and ask for input. You might want to be sitting down when they hit you with it.

Those with influence define the rules, select the players and enjoy the outcomes. Perhaps it’s time to begin deliberately and ethically working on cultivating your workplace influence.

Art Petty coaches and trains emerging leaders and consults with B2B firms on strategy and marketing. You can reach Art via e-mail to discuss your needs for coaching, speaking or consulting.

By |2016-10-22T17:11:42+00:00February 28th, 2011|Career, Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|6 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Dr. Ada February 28, 2011 at 8:42 am - Reply

    You say: “True influence…the kind where people seek you out and value your input and involve you and look to you to lead, isn’t bestowed by a title, it’s born of hard work.” I agree with you. Would also add that it’s born of effective communication, cultivating genuine relationships, and creating a positive environment around you.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

    • Art Petty February 28, 2011 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Well stated, Dr. Ada! Thanks for reading and for adding value here! -Art

  2. Ernest Buise March 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Great article!
    Together with the Double P, I suggest to firmly incorporate the Big S of internal Stakes of internal and external stakeholders. Q

  3. Jennifer V. Miller March 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm - Reply


    I love the phrase “ethical finesse”– what an elegant term! I’m doing a lunch-n-learn in a few weeks on how to navigate office politics in a positive way to create influence. May I use this phrase and credit you?

    • Art Petty March 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Jennifer! Please use the phrase in good health. Best, -Art

  4. […] Importance of Cultivating Your Influence – while not specifically about office politics, leadership coach Art Petty shares sage advice for leaders: “Be aware of politics, and instead of denying it, use ethical finesse in coping with and managing it.”  […]

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