How do we achieve more positive influence as leaders and individuals? Understanding how to leverage the influence factor can make a defining difference in your ability to drive change, build cohesive teams, and successfully implement strategic vision.

We used to influence by having the answers, but now we engage by asking the questions, or, more importantly, by leading the questions.

The common and successful approach way back when was to communicate that your answer was better than anyone else’s; that you were correct, credible, and others should listen. You became the leader of an ever-expanding following of like-minded people who embraced your knowledge and helped draw in others. In today’s incredibly dynamic world, this approach has worn itself out. Things change so quickly that knowledge fast becomes stale, and answers become obsolete at an accelerating rate.

In our current day-to-day, the greatest value comes from questions. We are thirsty for further understanding; we want to explore promising but previously ignored areas. Leaders with questions show vulnerability and in turn build up trust-based relationships with those around them – vital to maintaining positive influence. Questions spark discussion and excitement, and invite a different and more powerful form of participation. With trust in flow, we’re more likely to ask questions ourselves and try to express our tacit knowledge with a reduced fear of embarrassment. We all interact, learn, and grow as more of a unit.

Compared to the old way of doing things, the network here can be described as a mesh, rich with individuals offering a variety of skills and knowledge, and with more complex relationships where every participant is connected.

The most powerful network is formed by a selection of teams who can intertwine to teach and learn from each other, and go forward helping themselves to achieve greatness. Give and teach and be part of the unit, and you shall receive respect in return.

Resist the temptation to fall back on conventional approaches to influence that were more suited to a linear world. Lead with questions. Excite your employees. Explore actively, and promote self-led investigation among your teams to ignite avid participation and ripe opportunity for growth. Lead from within!

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