Top 7 Characteristics of Influential People

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 our list below.

What makes someone influential? Here are the 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.
— Dale Carnegie, 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.

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