A Leader’s Network Part 1: Influence Without Authority

The ability to influence others in informal ways rather than solely exercising your positional/hierarchical power is very important in today’s workplace. And the simple truth is that this ability to influence without authority is directly tied to the networks you build in your professional life (and often in your personal life too).

If this is so simple, why is influencing without authority the number one cited problem leaders have when they show up to our leadership programs? (I especially see this in LDP®.)

Two reasons:

  1. Leaders underestimate the power of their own network.
  2. Leaders often have lousy information about how to build, maintain, and leverage a network effectively.

To clear up some of this bad information, here are some network truths that I’ve discovered that will boost your knowledge about your network and help you become a better influencer across your organization.

  1. Your leadership network should be open, where many people in your core network do not know each other.  This provides you with unique information.
  2. Your leadership network should be diverse, containing relationships that cross important boundaries in your work and profession – think peers, thought leaders, and colleagues from a different generation.  This provides you with diverse information.
  3. Your leadership network should include lots of strong ties – people who have your best interest in mind. This allows you to believe and trust the unique/diverse information you receive.

Want to diagnose your network? Download our free leadership network diagnostic here and watch these videos on how to take, analyze, and make changes to your leadership network.

Read part 2 of this series, A Leader’s Network Part 2: Your Network Should Change as Your Situation Changes

5 thoughts on “A Leader’s Network Part 1: Influence Without Authority

  1. Very interesting points, Phil. The one I am most interested in is your last point “Your leadership network should include lots of strong ties – people who have your best interest in mind.” I have found that creating strong ties is one thing, but people who have your best interest in mind is another. Most people who I come across are really looking for a tit-for-tat relationship based more in monetary connections, as opposed to mutual support (and I speak of a professional network, not necessarily personal). Curious what you think about trying to cultivate a professional network that includes trust and support, which is somewhat contrary to what most believe a network includes.

    1. Beth, thanks for the great comment. You make a great point about why people usually want to build relationships or put you in their network – they are hoping to get some immediate resource benefit, like a barter system, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. This is a fairly short-sighted and superficial approach to network but fairly common (hence the need to build strong reciprocated ties). Your strong tie network are the people who have your back, will stand up for you inside your organization – people who you consider allies. How do you do this? That’s a bit more tricky. Adam Grant (www.giveandtake.com) says that there are three networking styles: givers, takers, and matchers. I believe what you were talking about was matchers – the tit for tat approach – I’ll help you if you help me. This may work in the short-term, but those relationships never go beyond transactional (they really don’t have your best interests in mind). Givers on the other hand (based on the concept of Wayne Baker’s generalized generosity concept) build relationships primarily by giving without expecting anything in return (think pay it forward). If you get the reputation as a giver – people will start to attach to you. They will start going out of their way to help, and won’t expect anything back … in the long run you come up on top (even if in the short term it’s terribly time consuming). Sorry for the long reply, but it was a good question. Bottom line is have people’s best interests in mind, give time, advice, and introductions without expecting it in return and you’ll be surrounded by people who will really start to care for you and your situation.

  2. Thanks Phil, great information. In trying to overcome my resistance to spending what I perceive is ALOT of time on people and not tasks, I am wondering how to start these contacts – I know the people, but we are all heavily engaged in doing…. how do we find a way to derive benefit from the contact quickly enough to keep doing it?

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