The Six Sources of Influence You Should Know

The Six Sources of Influence You Should Know

January 21, 2015
Career Development

We learned last week from Jo Miller that positional influence isn’t all that we make it out to be. Anyone with a variety of interpersonal influencing skills, at any stage in their career can make great things happen. Jo calls out six sources of influence and tangible tips to practice each in your everyday role, no matter your position in the retail RD career ladder. 

First there is positional influence, the authority that comes inherent in a job title and role. Positional influence is perhaps the most overrated of all forms of influence, as people spend a lot of their careers waiting for it when they could be influencing in other, more immediate ways. For example:

Expertise influence: The influence that comes with your background, experience, qualifications, and career accomplishments. Nora Denzel is a member of the board of directors for Ericsson, Saba and Outerwall. When she spoke to senior technical leaders at a women’s conference, she reminded them that, “It’s not what you know, and it’s not who you know. It’s who knows what you know.”

Who knows what you know? Are your colleagues and management aware of your expertise? If not—don’t be the best kept secret in your organization! In order to maximize your expertise influence, find appropriate and effective ways to promote your accomplishments. 

Resources influence: Having the ability to attract and deploy the resources you require to get your job done. When budgets and headcount are tight, it is important to demonstrate that any company resources allocated to you are invested well. And don’t make the mistake of turning down additional resources that could help you perform your job. If you can take an additional resource and use it to deliver a greater return on that investment, you’re not doing your company any favors by being frugal.

Negotiate for the resources you need, use them well, and you will be entrusted to manage even greater resources in future.

Informational influence: Having a finger on the pulse of what is going on in the organization. Seek out information about changes before they become officially known, such as new projects, opportunities, re-orgs, resource allocations, budgets, and long-range plans. Having a heads up on this information helps you make better business decisions, more rapidly.

Over time, others will come to rely on you for your decision-making ability. When that happens, you’ll be utilizing your informational influence.

Direct influence: Being firm, fair, and professional when someone’s behavior is out of line. Here’s where leadership and parenting have a lot in common. A caring parent will step in when a child puts themself or others in danger. There will be times as a leader when you need to do the same, using your direct influence to take that person aside and have a “tough love” conversation.

The best leaders do this in a way that is firm, fair, direct, and confidential. They also take the time to share their vision for that individual and their future potential, and in doing so, act more like a mentor than a boss.

Leaders who do this well gain a great deal of respect from their people. By using your direct influence well, you can make a big difference in another person’s career.

Relationships influence: The influence that grows as you build great working relationships with those you rely on to get your job done, and everyone else that your role touches. Dr. Sophie Vandebroek, Chief Technology Officer with Xerox, said, “It’s not enough to have a bright idea. I have seen too many projects led by great, passionate people fail because they tried to be a lone influencer. You have to get the right people in the boat with you. You have to engage the entire human fabric.”

When you take time to build great relationships across the human fabric of your organization, you are less likely to need to resort to cajoling or persuading others to get things done. Instead of being the sole driver of an idea you can achieve a lot more by collaborating with people who know you and trust you.

The most important thing to remember: don’t try to be a lone influencer! By fully using the power of relationships and of all of your Sources of Influence, you can gain credibility, get buy-in for ideas, and make a larger impact in your company, with or without the positional authority of a job title.


Jo Miller is Founding Editor of, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc, and the creator of the Women’s Leadership Coaching® system, a roadmap for women who want to break into leadership positions in business. Used successfully by thousands of women worldwide, the system identifies the key steps women must take to advance into positions of influence and leadership—especially in industries long considered “a man’s world,” such as technology, finance, and energy. Jo is an internationally sought-after speaker who delivers more than 60 presentations per year to audiences of up to 1,200 for women’s conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives.