Top 7 Characteristics of Influential People

characteristics of influential people

Image source: Inc

What do Richard Branson, Jaan Tallinn and the Dalai Lama have in common? They’re all thought-leaders, influential people. People want to listen to them – and follow what they say.

What’s more, they’ve gained influence through the force of their personalities, overcoming barriers along the way.

For example, Richard Branson skipped the usual university-to-work course and launched a string of disruptive models that many wrote off as nuts. The Dalai Lama has spent decades in exile, condemned by the Chinese authorities – yet he’s a household name that celebrated his 80th birthday on stage at Glastonbury music festival alongside rock legend Patti Smith.

So just how do they do it?

The most influential leaders all share the same traits. Qualities that win people over and establish them as respected and much-loved figures in the eyes of their colleagues, collaborators and the wider world.

Want to be more influential as a person? Take a look at these 7 top characteristics of influential people.

1. They have vision

Influential people aren’t just trying to get the job done in the short-term. They have big dreams and ideas of how the world could or should be. Everything they do is a step towards making this vision a reality.

2. They’re clear and consistent

Not only do influential people have a vision, they know how to communicate it. They make sure that their beliefs and aims are reflected in every interaction – and they take pains to avoid contradiction or hypocrisy. Not only does this demonstrate integrity, it helps make sure that their message is reiterated and absorbed, over and over again.

Read on: Jaan Tallinn on the future of business communication

3. They listen

“Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours,” wrote Dale Carnegie in his bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Counter-intuitive as it might sound, the best way to get someone on your side is to ask questions about them and really listen to what they say. Try it, it works.

4. They keep their cool

Losing your temper is never a good look. While it’s great to be passionate, calmly outlining your argument will always make you look stronger. This impacts positively on how people perceive you and whether they listen to what you say.

5. They adapt

Influential people understand that while their message is constant, the medium is evolving. They get that you need to adopt new technologies and approaches in order to cope with a changing world and stay relevant and effective.

6. They put people at ease

Anyone can cajole others into doing what they want. While it might make you powerful in the short term, it doesn’t make you influential, it makes you a bully – and the thing about bullies is, everyone wants them to fail. By inviting contributions from your team and making colleagues feel happy, inspired and excited, you foster a culture of trust and loyalty that drives the business forward. If anything goes wrong, your team has your back.

7. They keep the conversation going

Influential people understand that to make a project a success, it needs to stay on track. They’re expert communicators that excel at cutting through the noise and communicating the most vital messages, maintaining regular contact to ensure everyone’s supported and on target.  They may use email in business communication, and keep more casual conversations to chat apps, but they definitely make sure all important communication gets the attention it needs. This is what truly makes them a leader.

Read on: Email in business communication: How the busiest people in the world use email

Marek Sanders, copywriter

This is a guest blog post written by Marek Sanders, who is a copywriter, productivity enthusiast and a Fleep evangelist.


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The Case for Remote Work

What does it mean to be working? Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, discusses in this video interview with Lean Startup:

We have, like, this factory model, where we think someone’s working if they show up in the morning and they’re not drunk, or they don’t sleep at their desk, or they leave at the right time, and they’re dressed nicely, or whatever.

But that has so little to do with what you create. And I think we all know people who create a lot without fitting in those norms.

Today, there are two kinds of companies: the ones that accept and accommodate remote work, and the ones that don’t. In our experience at Fleep, location does not determine levels of productivity. Our team is split between two towns, and all of our team members work remotely every now and then. We even have a helpful Fleep conversation dedicated to team whereabouts:

remote work team whereabouts

We’ve found it is more useful to measure results, rather than people’s ability to turn up at 9am and stay in the same seat until 5pm. How do we do it? We Scrum it.

Scrum is an agile way to manage and measure work. The methodology, with its daily stand-ups (that we do virtually, with a bot reminding us to post ours daily – to type up our daily accomplishments and goals in a dedicated team conversation), helps prevent many challenges in the workplace. Scrum helps track responsibilities and progress. It helps prevent employees from feeling overworked and under-appreciated, and gives everyone in the team an overview of what and how much work people are really doing.

remote work scrum

Allowing for remote work and flexible hours also helps with the company culture and employees’ happiness. Knowing that you can set your own schedule or take a break to go to the dentist without getting it signed off makes life way less stressful – and means employees aren’t worrying about how to manage their personal lives.

These are some of the (many) reasons that Matt Mullenweg of WordPress decided to opt for a totally remote workforce.

remote work“I don’t really care when you work, how late you sleep, whether you pick up your kids from school in the afternoon,” says Mullenweg. “It doesn’t matter. It’s all about your output. Maybe someone can do the same work that most of us do in eight hours in one hour – and good for them!”

He believes that this approach has helped Automattic, the creator of WordPress, to grow from a geeky kid’s bedroom project to running 50% of the world’s biggest websites in under a decade. By giving employees freedom to create and simply focusing on results, he’s built a team of creative ninjas that do great work without the office politics.

While many people were skeptical about whether Automattic could thrive with a purely remote workforce, Mullenweg proved them wrong time and again.

“Still, to this day, people say, oh it’s gonna break!” laughs Mullenweg, who now employs more than 275 people.

They say, ah, that works great when you’ve got 10 or 15, but when you get to 30 people, it falls over. Oh, you’ve got 30? 100 is the magic number… We’ve kinda blown past all of those.

But with so much trust on offer, how do you make sure you’re not employing slackers?

remote workingLike many CEOs that hire remotely, Mullenweg says that he asks all new recruits to complete a paid trial period before they even think of handing in their notice at their current job. Newbies work part-time in their evenings and weekends, and only those that can handle the self-reliance make it through to the team.

This, he says, means that you only hire talented people who value “autonomy, mastery and purpose”.

In other words, the kind of people that can transform a fledging startup into a billion dollar enterprise like Automattic.

So don’t just take it from us, take it from one of the world’s most brilliant and creative tech companies – focus on the results, not the hours clocked in.

As Mullenweg says, 11 years on:  “It’s working great and I honestly can’t imagine working any other way!”

Chat for teams