9 Tips Grow Your Circle of Influence and Be a Better Leader

Last Updated on January 22, 2023 by Milton Campbell

The Difference Between a Leader’s and Manager’s Circle of Influence

Both managers and leaders have a circle of influence. The difference between a manager’s and a leader’s circle of influence is free will. Managers influence others by instilling fear. Typically subordinates listen to a manager because they fear losing their job or even worse they are physically afraid of the boss. The leader has a circle of influence because people want to follow them. Being an influencer and attracting followers, makes for a more productive and happier work environment for employees. When people choose to follow you they will work much harder and more efficiently.

See my previous post about the difference between managing and leading people for more information.

How do you know if you have a circle of influence?

Do you have people come to you for personal or career advice? Do people look to you or wait to see what you’re going to do when there’s a problem? If you answered yes then congratulations, these people are a part of your circle of influence. These employees may not even be under your supervision. They can be peers, subordinates, or even supervisors within a completely different work area. Growing your circle of influence, not only within your work area but also in other areas is important. You never know when having influence in another department will be needed. The larger your circle, the more you can accomplish.

What is your circle of control and how does it interface with your circle of influence?

Image of a figure winding up another figure representing circle of control and circle of influence.

A circle of control is things that you can control. To break it down a little further, there are things directly within your control and things that you indirectly control.

Too often we worry too much about things that we have little to no control over. This way of doing business leads to extra stress and quicker burnout. We need to be focusing our efforts on things we control. This means understanding what you control.

For example, you directly control what you wear each day but you indirectly control what your employee does throughout the day. You may tell them to do something but it’s up to them to do what you say. As much as you would sometimes like to, you can’t really force them to do anything.

This is where your circle of influence comes into play. The stronger your influence on your employee, the more likely they are to do what you want them to do. The larger your circle of influence, the bigger your circle of control reaches.

How do you grow your circle of influence as a leader?

Image of hands in a circle representing circle of influence.
  1. See the potential in others and motivate them to achieve it. Push people to be better than they were before they met you. When you help people achieve things they may not have without you, they are very likely to be there for you when you need them. Pushing people to be better today than they were yesterday pays dividends. These people not only follow you but they get promotions and build their own following that indirectly follows you.
  2. Be honest with those around you. A lack of trust can really damage relationships and take away from all the hard work you’ve done. This includes calling somebody out when they are messing up. I can’t count the times I’ve had people thank me for letting them know they were messing up and giving them the opportunity to fix it. What may be obvious to us, is not always obvious to everybody.
  3. Build relationships. You don’t have to become best friends with all your employees but you should get to know them all. Getting to know your people can really help you understand what makes them tick and shows them that you care about them. Your employees are more than just bodies there to do a job. They are people with feelings and emotions.
  4. Remind your people of their importance. Everybody likes to feel like they are important. This can sometimes be as simple as telling somebody how good of a job they did. Small gestures can go a really long way in boosting morale, production, and retainability.
  5. Be sincere. People can tell when you are blowing smoke. There are always positives that each person has. You can bring these to light just don’t start making stuff up. Like the old saying goes “if you can’t find something good to say about somebody don’t say anything at all.” Similarly to number 2 you can really hurt the trust if people don’t believe you are sincere.
  6. Be respectful of others. If you can’t show respect you won’t get respect. You want people to respect you for who you are not based on the position you hold. This means you have to always carry yourself in a manner that is positive and avoid getting too emotional. Be a technical expert in a certain area can really boost the respect people have for you. If you are not one you should learn how your employees do what they do.
  7. Be a servant. This doesn’t mean do everything that everybody tells you. It means to do what people need you to do in order to make the job easier and more efficient for your employees. Listen to their needs and address them to the best of your abilities. Some of the best bosses I’ve ever had said that they work for us and they lived up to it. They didn’t work for each individual person doing everything they wanted but they worked for the group of us ensuring we had the tools and support we needed to get the job done to the best of our abilities.
  8. Motivate others. Find out what motivates those around you and use it to help them reach their potential. Different people are motivated by different things. Some motivations can be awards, gratitude, money, time off, and public recognition just to name a few. If an employee is motivated by time off and you tell them they can leave with full pay when they complete a task, I bet that task will be completed quicker than normal.
  9. Lead with character. This means doing what’s right even when it may not be the popular decision at the time. It’s important to do the right thing even when nobody’s looking. If you can do the right thing when nobodies looking, you should have no problem doing it when all eyes are on you. If you expect your employees not to leave early and claim full time, you should not be doing that. If you expect people to work hard for you, you better be working hard for them.

Growing your circle of influence is important for many reasons. Everyone needs others at some point in time. You never know when or what you will need from somebody else. The more people in your circle of influence the easier it is to get things done. Everybody has something to offer and having them in your circle of influence can help make both of you stronger. Connecting with others should be beneficial for all parties involved.

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