It’s a well-established tenet of leadership that influence skills are of paramount importance for those seeking to effect change. Just consider what guru John Maxwell has to say on the topic: “Leadership is influence. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

In fact, were it not for the influence ability of Luis de Santangel, you might not be living in America as we know it. Here’s the back story. Christopher Columbus made his explorer-pitch to the queen of Spain. Unfortunately, he did not convince her to fund his journey and left the court a defeated man. In steps Luis de Santangel, who convinced the queen of the value of Columbus’ proposal. Courtiers were soon running in search of him, exuberantly explaining that Queen Isabella had decided in his favor after all. The rest, of course, is [American] history.

Influence is a many-splendored thing. Some of the following aspects of that “thing” will apply to you. Hone your skills and make bigger and bigger proposals as you achieve success each time and as your confidence grows. You may not discover a new world, but you are bound to discover new ways of doing things and individuals with whom to get things done.


—   Employ both verbal and physical tools (such as pitching in to get work completed) for getting others to do what you want them to do. Assuming your goal is to benefit others, this is acceptable behavior.

—   Remember that the average person wants to do the right thing.

—   Regard life as an experiment. Don’t be afraid to start with a small suggestion.

—   Consider “civility” as the integration of personal well-being and other people’s well-being.

—   Use your political savvy to get things done.

—   Recognize others if you are serious about respecting them.

—   Attempt to bring cohesion to seemingly disparate elements of a situation.

—   Respect what people already know.

—   Remove barriers that may stand between you and others.

—   Try to find common ground to stand on.


—   Confuse manipulative behavior with influencing for mutually beneficial purposes.

— Fair to build metaphoric bridges.

—   Forget to consider the feelings of your influencee.

—   Neglect the answers to numerous questions as you plan your influence strategy.

—   Overlook the need to achieve win/win outcomes in negotiating.

—   Rely exclusively on your most-favored cognitive style in order to solve problems. Switch your analytical hat sometimes with a creative hat.

—   Force others to think as you do. Encourage them instead to explore best options.

—   Hesitate to make demands–in the most tactful way possible.

—   Operate with pretense as your base.


—   Find others influenced by your every gesture. Act with integrity in every case.

—   Be more effective in your influencing efforts if you can speak multiple “languages” — the language of finance, for example, and the language of things.

—   Become more influential as you widen the spheres of your influence.

—   Increase self-confidence if you stretch yourself incrementally.

—   Need to invite influencees to move beyond their comfort zones as well.

—  Appeal to emotions, as appropriate, when you influence.

—   Help others to concentrate on your message if you can offer assurances first.

—   Often have to make the first move if you hope to persuade others.

—   Overcome resistance more easily if you can “emphasize the positives.”

—   Lessen the severity of “bad news” if you can offer multiple perspectives regarding it.


—   Be able to ignore deeply help personal values.

—   Grow unless you challenge yourself in big and/or small ways.

—   Be able to see the invisible without vision.

—   Communicate as clearly without metaphors as you will with them.

—   Maintain your influencee’s interest very long without making exchanges pleasant.


“Sometimes the most influential thing we can do,” asserts motivational speaker Bob Burg, “is to listen.” In so doing, you are demonstrating respect for the other person and the ideas he or she wishes to share. Try to envision the idea in action before you jump in to amend it with ideas of your own or–worse yet–before you explain why the idea won’t work.


  • Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60+ books, the most recent of which ("Applying Mr. Einstein") will be released by HRD Press in 2020. You can reach her at [email protected].