Today, leadership is all about influence and the ability to inspire others to follow willingly. Image: Shutterstock
By Subramanian Ananthapadmanabhan
In a world that is constantly evolving, the traditional notions of leadership are undergoing a profound transformation. Gone are the days when authority and title alone defined leadership. Today, leadership is all about influence and the ability to inspire others to follow willingly. In a recent gathering of startup founders engaged in a growth hack session, this shift in the leadership paradigm became abundantly clear to me. As we sat together in a room filled with a diverse array of ideas and ambitions, it was evident that the old-fashioned command-and-control approach had no place in this setting.
In my formative years, I, like many, had been conditioned to view leadership through the lens of titles and authority. Credibility and knowledge were often secondary considerations. However, as I journeyed into leadership roles of my own, I realised that true leadership goes beyond these superficial markers. My leadership style today is an amalgamation of the wisdom I've gained from books, the influence of those who have shaped my thinking, and even the lessons I've learned from those leaders I never aspired to emulate.
So, the question that loomed large in our discussion was: how do we shift our approach from a command-and-control mindset to one that centres on building influence? How can we lead in a way that transcends our job titles and positions? The answer, as I have come to understand it, lies in a framework I've developed, which I call the ACE model. This model comprises three essential steps that can help emerging leaders transition to an influence-based leadership style: Acceptance, Commitment and Execution.
Acceptance: Your reputation precedes you
• Trust is the cornerstone of building acceptance. To gain the trust of your team, you must go beyond superficial knowledge of their personal lives. Understand their motivations and acknowledge their history of professional experiences.
• Building credibility is equally vital. It's not enough to talk the talk; you must also walk the walk, both in and away from the presence of your team. Consistency is the key to building trust and credibility.Also read: Compassion in business: Why it matters and how to practice it
Commitment: Inspire and empower
• With acceptance in place, the next step is to inspire and lead by example. Share your ideals, your vision, and the direction in which you aim to take your team.
• Celebrate small victories along the way. By recognising, appreciating, and applauding these achievements, you amplify your team's commitment to the shared goals.
Execution: Turning vision into reality
Effective governance and a structured cadence are essential, but they're not enough on their own. True progress requires the ability to implement and monitor leading indicators.
Be prepared to make minor adjustments as needed. The process of fine-tuning is essential to keep the team on track and to ensure the ultimate goal is reached.
Becoming a trustworthy leader is a journey that extends far beyond the implementation of the ACE framework. However, by following these steps, you take the first crucial step towards defining your leadership through humility and influence rather than the designation imposed by your title. In today's dynamic age, the ability to lead with influence is an essential component of your leadership wardrobe. So, give it a try and see how it fits — the ACE model could be your key to mastering the art of leading with influence in this ever-changing world.Subramanian Ananthapadmanabhan is senior vice president (SVP) and head of Midmarket, SAP, APJ