Want to win friends and have the most influence on people in your organization?
Be a transformational leader.
Leaders often wish to be more influential in how things get done, how priorities are established and how resources get allocated. According to researchers Joyce E. Bono at the University of Manitoba and Marc H. Anderson at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, transformational leaders are more likely than other leaders to have influence in the company.
Transformational leaders are charismatic, provide intellectual stimulation for staff and attend to the growth and development of followers. They effect change. Charismatic leaders are adept at articulating their vision with enthusiasm throughout the organization. They want subordinates to grow. They let them engage in critical and divergent thinking. “Yes-men” need not apply to a department run by a transformational leader. Transformational managers mentor their staff and attend to their needs. They want staff to have the resources that will push them to the next level of performance.
These leaders tend to increase performance, commitment to the organization, job satisfaction and interpersonal helpfulness throughout the business and their efforts translate into bottom-line gains.
According to Bono and Anderson, these individual characteristics are not the only source of influence for managers and leaders. Their social networks in the company are crucial in helping leaders identify opportunities in the company and access information. They also help the managers understand information gathered from others. For example, tapping a social network helps leaders manage feedback about change, such as areas of the company that are experiencing strain.
Transformational leaders maintain central positions in social networks because they are trusted, respected and admired. They communicate high standards of ethical conduct with optimism and staff seek their advice for these reasons. These leaders make it safe to take risks so that staff can try new things or ask for advice. As well, these managers are high performers themselves and are considered to be experts and “go-to” people in the organization.
The best way for a transformational leader to build an influential social network is with his or her own staff. By nurturing their direct reports, these managers produce staff who tend to be high performers and who help others get the job done. This builds a solid network in the manager’s department, helping staff generate goodwill throughout the organization. And because they are good at their jobs, these staff groups are considered to be excellent sources of advice. Hence, they are sought after by other staff.
Nurturing a high potential and highly influential staff group requires managers to engage in four key activities:
• Communicate Your Vision
Create a cogent vision for your department that aligns with your company’s strategic plan. Once you have articulated the vision, talk about it succinctly and describe its ramifications for your staff. Be confident and enthusiastic about the department’s direction and share it with staff and the rest of the organization at every opportunity. For example, if your department’s vision is to provide up-to-date, fast and knowledgeable IT support to the company, tell everyone and ensure that all efforts in the department line up with this vision.
• Encourage Critical Thinking
Beware of nurturing a department of people who don’t analyze what they are doing and aren’t asking, “Why we are doing this and why are we doing it this way?” Defensive leaders are unable to tolerate staff who analyze processes or ask why is this task or procedure done this way. Staff can be encouraged to take ownership of their work and delve more deeply into the deliverables they offer. For example, instead of fixing a recurring IT problem for the umpteenth time, the staff of a transformational leader ask, “How can we remedy this once and for all?” The answer may take the department into uncharted territory that creates issues that a “quick fix” would avoid, but the outcome in the long term benefits the company and aligns with the department’s vision.
• Encourage Risk Taking
Make the department safe for new ideas and creative solutions. Encourage questions and discussion about business problems and concerns. If the department feels like a safe place to learn and experiment, leaders have more influence over the whole organization and get more done.
• Develop and Mentor Staff
Create development plans with your staff—ask them what their goals are for the next three to five years and how they want to contribute to the team. And ask how they’d like to interact with the department leadership. What projects do they want to tackle, what contribution do they want to make to ensuring the vision becomes a reality. Find out what they would like to learn and provide the opportunity. Meet regularly to discuss these goals with each staff member.
Working well with staff will net a leader maximal influence in a company and honing the character traits that foster influential social networks is key.
Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.