The ability to influence is critical to all leaders but is absolutely essential for women leaders to succeed.
Because so many women lead in places where what counts as leadership is still very male-centered. As Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever wrote in her book, How Exceptional Black Women Lead, “What looks and sounds like leadership coming from a man, can be interpreted completely differently, coming from a woman.”
If we aren’t mindful, we can get caught in a web of mind games, stereotypes, double-binds and biases that can serve as barriers to our ability to lead and effect change. And if we aren’t mindful, leading in such situations can be detrimental to our spiritual, mental and emotional health.
But rather than just “go with the flow” and “take your lickings and keep on ticking,” determine to develop a mindset that centers on your influence and what you can do in such situations instead of focusing on what you can’t do because of what others are trying to take from you.
I define influence as
“the power to effect change and gain commitment in people, teams and organizations for the good of all.” ~ ~Influence Starts with “I”.
the positive use of power to shape ideas, mindsets, and behavior of people and teams and to better organizations, institutions and communities. ~Influence Starts with “I”
We get more done, and enact more effective change by influencing rather than coercing, dictating, or demanding. We get more done influencing than fighting, arguing, cussin’ and fussin’.
Every woman leader needs to cultivate an influence mindset. That’s right whether you are an existing leader or an emerging leader, we cannot let the gender blindspots of others about our leadership become barriers to our effectiveness, growth and advancement.
We cannot control what others think about us, but we can control how we think about the situations with which we’re faced! For that is what a mindset is–a pattern of thinking; a set of assumptions that guide how we interact with others; and a belief system that shapes our perspective about ourselves and others.
So yes, with an influence mindset, we can and should believe that based on our purpose, our skills, abilities, gifts and experiences we have the power to make a difference where we have been placed to lead. Before we look at the seven strategies let’s define what an influence mindset is not and what it is.
The Influence Mindset is Not…
- A passive mindset. People with a passive mindset consistently acquiesce to the demands of others because they believe they have little to no power in relation to others. They underestimate their value and tend to change their true perspective and opinions in order to get along with others. Know your value and know you don’t have to be passive.
- A manipulative mindset. People who hold to a manipulative mindset not only believe they have no power, they doubt the power of others in the system and see themselves as victims of the system. So they resort to indirect and underhanded maneuverings to try to “work the system.” They end up losing trust and building walls between them and others. Manipulation is not an authentic way to work and in the long run hurts you and those around you.
- An aggressive mindset. People who operate from an aggressive mindset believe in their own power. That’s for sure. But they believe their power is more important and potent than the power of others and therefore they have the right to use their power over others. That type of interaction is not influence; that’s coercion. You don’t want to be seen or experienced as the office bully.
The Influence Mindset Is…
- The belief system of personal and communal agency. It is the belief system that one holds who understands and knows she has the power, skills, abilities, gifts and experiences to make a difference where she has been placed. It is a perspective for leading that believes in the power of the collective and the greater good. The influence mindset helps you stay true to your purpose and authentic identity.
How to Cultivate an Influence Mindset
- Own Your power. Whether it’s the power of your voice, your wisdom, your position, or your network–own it. You have power and it’s your currency for leadership success. Your power is foundational to your influence.
- Respect the power of others. Respect the choice and voice of others. Other people have power also. It’s also their currency for success. Respecting the power of others looks like you listening to them, respecting their humanity.
- Believe in the power of the collective. True influencers maintain a mindset that people working together can do more good for all. Find your squad to work together for positive change. That sets us apart from separatist leaders who try to go it alone and end up collateral damage in company politics.
- Remain self-aware about your power and influence. Take time to think about your thinking. Build reflection and self-care time into your leadership to be able to assess and recalibrate your mindset. And don’t let other people’s stereotypes and gender biases about your leadership live in your head.
- Pay attention to potential opportunities. Mindsets shape our perspective. They shape how we see the world around us, others and even ourselves. Practice seeing opportunities where others see problems. Look for the opportunity. Look for the possibility.
- Check your own negativity bias. Your mindset consists of the set of assumptions you hold. Some of us have been socialized toward a negativity bias–we are predisposed to see the bad in every situation. When confronted with something new or different, negative thoughts creep up. As soon as you hear one of those negative thoughts, check it at the door of your mind. Examine it for truth, and expel it if it has no bearing in truth.
- Get support. Mindsets can shift–through feedback, education and self-insight. Carve out your personal development time where you take time to think about your own thinking. Commit to working with a professional to develop an influence mindset or to recalibrate your current mindset toward positivity. A leadership coach can help you set goals and leverage your influence mindset. A spiritual director can help you listen to your inner spirit to unleash purpose for influencing. A counselor can help you examine how your past programming affects your current ability to influence.
For more insights on the influence for women, check out my book: