This fall, I have been asked to help champion two different speaking engagements centered on the subject of “Becoming a Woman of Influence”. As I began preparing my notes for the various events, I realized that my outline of talking points was evolving effortlessly into a blog that I could share with my social media following and client base – both men and women alike. After all, the preparation necessary for such a high-level discussion inherently begs the question about how one truly becomes influential across multiple circles and platforms.
My personal definition of an Influenceris someone who possesses perceived expertise, knowledge, authority and relationships…AND effectively utilizes those assets to affect real change. Influence can be personal or extended to an organization or brand, and can range across the global, national, regional, local levels, industries, or even the most intimate of personal and professional contacts. Regardless of the scale and scope, however, there is always a core set of traits and characteristics that true Influencerspossess, refine and advance in order to make the greatest impact.
Power and Influence are NOTthe same thing. Referring to these traits interchangeably can lead to a slippery slope that perilously confuses influence with intimidation. True influence – in the sense we are describing here – has nothing to do with pressure or coercion. To the contrary, successful Influencers are distinguished by a toolkit consisting of respect, authenticity, networking, connectivity, involvement, channeling, thought leadership and continuity. If these characteristics are assembled properly, power can and should be one of the positive outcomes of the recipe, but it is not one of the ingredients itself.
The Definining Characteristics of Influencers
Perhaps the greatest asset of Influencers is that they are respected and authentic. There is a reverence for individuals who pay their dues, earn their stripes, and know the materials that comprise their core competencies unlike any other. Authenticity is always evident when a leader is involved with causes and initiatives that matter to them and the Influencer clearly knows they can make an impact in. The Influencers worthy of such veneration are those capable of culminating all these factors and achieving exactly what they say they will.
Influencers are also networked, but unlike countless others with voluminous contacts, they make a point to also be irreplaceable connectors. It is a special skill set to be able to leverage one’s vast network of contacts and utilize it to the advantage of not only yourself, but all of those in your circle. This includes being a mentor and serving as a resource to emerging leaders around you. Influencers know how to network, inspire and connect continuously.
Influencersare involved because they make it a deliberate choice to be. Granted, some opportunities such as board positions or political appointments can come along down the road as a result from years of existing involvement, but there is an unquestionable characteristic in these individuals that got them started. Volunteering, joining chambers and industry organizations, attending conferences and training sessions, developing personalized speaking engagements, submitting for awards, participating in charitable activities and volunteering for philanthropic causes are just some of the ways that Influencers lay the groundwork for their reputation and sought-after expertise. They get themselves out there and become known. These are among the most important – and ironically underutilized – means for raising profile.
Influencers are also digitally savvy. Who and what you know grows in value the more you share it with others, so it is important to go beyond just “being there” to finding channels to reach those far beyond your immediate reach. Fortunately, technology today makes it easy for true Influencers to spread their message, experience, knowledge and authority. Influencers effective maximize every channel available to spread their ideas, ranging from websites and social media to webinars and in-person presentations. The more people have access to your insights, the more influential you can inherently be.
True Influencers, who rise to top in large part because they know their “stuff”, don’t limit their future opportunities to their comfort zone or wheelhouse. Being a thought leader inherently means that someone is thinking beyond what is already known and utilizing what they have learned in order to establish a new trail of accomplishment and growth. Influencersrecognize opportunities to share their thought leadership with others in their community and beyond.
And finally, Influencers recognize the value of presence and continuity. Being in the mix matters, and a huge aspect of being influential is asserting your position about all of the key issues that your network cares about. Yet, influencers don’t just chime in 1-2 times a year or on limited subject matter…to the contrary, they are often at the center of the message, or perhaps the very source of the news others are commenting on. Their voice is consistent, reliable and permeating.