7 Ways to Influence Without Relying on Authority

In all corporate environments, you need to pay attention to who and what has power.

This is a human dynamic that is rarely discussed out loud but is always present in any corporate environment. It is something that, as an executive, team leader or manager, you must pay attention to.

As companies expand and become more complex, no matter what organizational structure is in place, people must work with each other across reporting lines.  No longer does it work to say, “Do it because I told you so.”

Leading without relying on authority is a higher evolutionary skill. It supports developing adult relationships based on mutual objectives and creates work environments grounded in respect.

Influencing without authority is one of the most valuable skills you can learn today.

What is Influence?

Influence comes from who you have access to, and of course, whose opinion you can alter. It is something you acquire through your actions and attitude. The amount of influence you exert is often determined by your confidence, self-esteem and your perceived persona. It is also affected by your perceived expertise, or credibility – others’ trust of you and your knowledge or skill.

There are seven kinds of influence:

  1. Positional influence: This is the authority that comes with a job title and role.

Positional influence is perhaps the most overrated of all forms of influence. Rather than waiting for that job title or role, you could be more influencing now, in other, more immediate ways.

For example:

  1. Expertise influence: The influence that comes with your background, experience, qualifications and career accomplishments.

It’s important to make your management and colleagues aware of your expertise. Expertise influence is about “who knows what you know.” In order to maximize your expertise influence, find appropriate and effective ways to promote your knowledge.

  1. Character Influence – Your own character is your greatest source of influence.

People will believe you are motivated by the common good and not personal gain if you:

  • Lead by example
  • Follow through on your commitments
  • Are respectful, authentic and trustworthy
  1. Resources influence: This is your ability to attract and deploy the resources you need to get your job done.

It is important to demonstrate that any company resources allocated to you are invested well. And, word of caution, do not make the mistake of turning down additional resources that may help you perform your job. If you can take an additional resource and use it to deliver a greater return on that investment, you’re not doing your company any favors by being prudent.

Negotiate for the resources you need, use them well, and you will be trusted to manage even greater resources in future.

  1. Informational influence: Having a finger on the “pulse” of what is going on in the organization.

Having a ‘heads up’ on new projects, opportunities, resource allocations, long-range plans, budget and re-organizations before they are officially announced help you to make better decisions, more rapidly. Over time, others will come to rely on you for your decision-making ability. When that happens, you’ll be utilizing your informational influence.

  1. Direct influence: Being firm, fair, and professional when someone’s behavior is out of line.

There will be times when, as a leader, you need to take someone aside and have a “tough love” conversation. The best leaders do this in a way that is firm, fair, direct, and confidential. They also take the time to share their vision with that individual and their future potential, and in doing so, act more like a mentor than a boss.

Leaders who do this well gain a great deal of respect from their people. By using your direct influence well, you will make a big difference in another person’s career.

  1. Relationships influence: The influence that grows as you build great working relationships with those you rely on to get your job done, and everyone else that your role touches.

Influence is about building relationships. You are less likely to need to resort to persuading or coaxing others to get things done when you take time to build great relationships across your organization,  Instead of being the sole driver of an idea you can achieve much more by collaborating with people who know and trust you.

Don’t try to be a lone influencer. By fully using the power of relationships and of all of your sources of influence, you can gain credibility, get buy-in for ideas, and make a larger impact in your company, with or without the positional authority of a job title.

Too often we rely on one source of influence, and when it doesn’t work, there is no fallback.  If you always influence through the logic of expertise, you will have little impact on those who are more open to an appeal from someone you have a personal connection with.

When you develop more sources of influence, you have more options; and you have the opportunity to step back and consider which is the best source of influence for a particular situation.

Guidelines for Influencing Without Authority

  1. Put it out there. Communicate clearly what you want. Be clear with yourself first because if you’re not, it will be difficult for you to be clear with others. Then check for understanding to make sure you’ve been understood correctly.
  2. Be transparent. No hidden agendas. Don’t withhold information. Or, if you do need to withhold information, provide an explanation of why. People respect a sincere attempt at influence and resent being manipulated.
  3. Do your best AND be willing to let go. If an appeal to logic doesn’t work, try a different source of influence such as an appeal to values, building a credible network of support, or obtaining financial resources. However, there’s a difference between influencing and driving an agenda. If you are too attached, you are less likely to be heard. At some point, if you have done your best and have not been successful, you need to let it go.

There are no guarantees

When we move away from a control-based approach to leadership, not all efforts to influence will be successful.  Failing to influence does not mean you made a mistake. It might have been a good idea but the wrong time.  Or it might have been the wrong idea – maybe you had a blind spot or didn’t see a bigger picture.

When we shift from authority-based to influence-based leadership, we have to accept that we are not always in control. However, the reality is that we actually never were.