It will come as a surprise to many of you who are in leadership but you have way more influence than you realize. Perhaps this may seem like a statement of the obvious but research has shown that leaders either don't realize the depth of influence they exert over their teams or they don't know how to use that influence to drive performance.
In your organization you can bring to mind those people who exert influence with their peers, with leadership and on their teams. We all know them, those "go to" people who seem to have a handle on pretty much everything and who are able to provide timely feedback or support when needed. They have a broad network of people they interact with and are seen by others as someone who adds value. Often you will find others going to them for advice either for how to handle a task or peer or for direction regarding career aspirations and so on.
In one company I know of there was one such person who exerted that kind of influence. They had built strong relationships with the company leadership by performing above expectations but also through consistent decisions that were always in the best interest of the company and that leadership group. They could be counted on to keep information in confidence. That approach was also applied with peers as well and most knew they could get sound advise and honest answers from that person. So what position did they hold? CEO? VP? Director? Manager? None of the above. This person was an office coordinator.
It should surprise us that this is the case but the reality is that we all have the capacity to develop that kind of circle of influence. While this type influence has nothing to do with position or title it is something that we can all develop and it can be particularly powerful when utilized from a position of leadership.
So why don't many leaders recognize how much influence they have or could have? It could be in part because we fall into the trap of believing that the "title" or position is sufficient. After all if I am leading a team they have to listen to me don't they? Yes, they have to comply. What we forget is that compliance is a minimum standard. Performance is something that goes beyond that minimum, tapping into what is called "discretionary effort." Maybe another way to put it is this; you can manage without influence but you cannot lead without it. Intrinsically we can all tell the difference between those two concepts. Thus we can find people without position or title who are leading and some who have position and title only managing or at the very least struggling to lead.
The best scenario is when one of those "influencers" moves into leadership but the good news is that each of us as leaders can learn to exercise our influence muscle. The first step is recognizing the necessity of doing so.