An outstanding source of influence is a reputation for and track record of success as an expert in a given arena. A wealth of credibility is earned when an individual is crowned by a community as the “go-to” person for information and results relative to a certain topic, process, or task. Leaders intent on making positive contributions in organizations and/or communities use the credibility and respect bestowed upon them for their specialization to motivate others to join them in the achievement of positive goals.
But what if you are a jack of all trades and master of none?
Here are three strategies a leader without a dominion over a niche can use to enhance personal influence.
Enlist the Help of Experts
In the absence of excellence in a particular subject your best move is to seek the help of those who know more than you do. If you choose this strategy beware of the self-proclaimed pro. The self aggrandizing expert is often not the top in her field. The best of the best are usually too busy applying their knowledge and skills toward the resolution of issues or advancement of opportunities to waste time broadcasting their greatness from every hill and soap box. Trying to align with the self-promoters in an attempt to ride their coat tails will not likely result in an improvement in personal influence levels. The outcome is typically a reputation as a sycophant. If your objectives are sound and you demonstrate a healthy amount of humility, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the experts on board. Once they are engaged, give them plenty of space to perform that voodoo they do so well. In these circumstances, your role is to remove the obstacles that could stand in the way of their success. You’ll be amazed at how much gets accomplished.
The way you earn credibility and build up your influence with this strategy is to check your ego at the door and give the connoisseurs credit. Shine the spotlight on their accomplishments (especially if they are too modest to bring attention to themselves). In exchange for your selfless subjugation of ego, the experts will grant you open access to their treasure troves of information and capabilities. You’ll find that it is much easier to motivate people to follow you when they know you’re the person with access to valuable resources.
Be a Catalyst
A closely related strategy to enlisting the help of experts is to be the catalyst gathering together talented specialists. In order for this approach to succeed, you have to be able to cast a compelling vision for what could be produced through the collaborative efforts of these experts. You’ll have to carefully tailor your messaging to speak directly to the values and priorities of each pro you want to recruit. If you can’t find the link between your vision and an individual’s personal or business drivers, chances are there’s not a fit worth exploring. When actively building trusting respectful relationships with “the masters,” it’s best not to play a losing hand.
Once the right players are at the table, your job is to facilitate a process that taps into each of their specialties. Foster a collaborative environment closely focused on clearly defined objectives.
Malcom Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, speaks of the power of connectors. These are people with a gift for linking otherwise unconnected groups of people. Influence is the reward for this charismatic ability. Ron Burt, University of Chicago Booth School of Business Hobart W. Williams Professor of Sociology and Strategy,explains that this is a do it yourself proposition. You don’t become influential simply by connecting with the connectors. You must play the leading role. Influence is not awarded for playing best supporting actor.
Become The Expert
Of course, there is the option of increasing your level of influence and power by earning the distinction as an expert relative to a topic, process, or task. For the jack of all trades who has spent years circling high above the terrain, this means it’s time to land the plane. Plant a stake in the ground. Spend the time, energy, and money required to learn more than the average bear about something. If you choose this path, keep in mind a key factor almost all experts share—a passion for their subject. Spending your life in pursuit of excellence is far more fulfilling if you actually love what you’re doing and care immensely about the kingdom over which you’re striving to rule. Do not be confused about the order of operations. Influence is a by-product of expertise not the reason for it.