A title will take you only so far; to reach the highest levels of leadership, you need to build and leverage your influence throughout the organization, according to a recent webinar from Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance.

Executive Summary

Managers take a short-term view and react as problems arise; leaders focus on the longer term, setting the strategic direction. That’s just one of the differences that separate inspirational, motivating leaders—whose teams would walk through fire for them—and managers who merely execute someone else’s vision. Leadership Coach Kathy Ryan gave advice to help those operating at lower levels to move toward the pinnacles of leadership.

In the webinar titled, “Making People WANT to Help You,” Kathy Ryan, president of Pinnacle Coaching Group, discussed the key differences between managing and leading. She also provided strategies to help take your leadership to the next level by deepening your relationships and building greater influence with others.

Ryan opened the webinar by stressing the importance of going beyond managing your team to truly leading your people. She said that managers focus on day-to-day tasks and workflow, executing someone else’s strategy or vision. They gain their power based on title, are driven by authority, and view their team as subordinates they can control and direct.

Managers take a short-term view and react as problems arise, embracing the mantra: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Leaders, on the other hand, focus on people, seeing their team as followers they can influence, motivate and inspire. Leaders are concerned with the long term, setting the strategic direction of the organization. They anticipate issues and stay aware of competitors, taking risks to make transformational changes proactively.

Ryan discussed the five levels of leadership—from leading solely on the basis of your title to being the kind of leader for whom workers would “walk through fire”:

  • Level 1: She described this level as basic leadership. People follow a Level 1 leader because of the title and position. A Level 1 leader expects to give an order and have it followed just because they said so. This type of leadership is not really effective, she said.
  • Level 2: At this level, your followers have given you permission to lead. A Level 2 leader’s power is based on relationships. However, Ryan warned that this limited leadership may get strained if you don’t continue to help your people grow and develop. They’ll begin to ask “what’s in it for me?” and may decide to seek new opportunities.
  • Level 3: At Level 3, people are willing to follow you based on your results. You’ve proven to be successful and are enjoying the momentum, but at this stage your followers are still conditional on your ability to produce. While Level 3 leaders are effective, they are not truly excelling, Ryan advised.
  • Level 4: This is the highest level most leaders will achieve. At Level 4, your leadership is based on your commitment to people development. You’ve shown a willingness to invest in your followers—to look forward to the long-term success of your organization and spend time using your time, energy and knowledge to produce the next group of leaders.
  • Level 5: This is the pinnacle of leadership. People respect you as a leader and follow who you are and what you represent. A Level 5 leader leaves behind a legacy, having a proven record of growing people and organizations.

In order to achieve the higher levels of leadership, you must first learn how to build trust and influence, Ryan noted. She said you can show that you’re trustworthy on a daily basis by being consistent so people know what to expect. Honest communication is key, she added, highlighting the importance of transparency. If there’s information that needs to be kept confidential, explain that to your team. Be willing to show your human side—to share your flaws and weaknesses, ask for help when needed, and develop humility.

She stressed the need to follow through on your commitments, advising participants to underpromise and overdeliver. Don’t be a people-pleaser who always says yes even when something isn’t possible, she cautioned, as that will undermine your trustworthiness.

Sign up for the Webinar and Other Leadership Courses

The webinar “Making People WANT to Help You” is available on demand on the Insurance Journal Academy website at https://www.ijacademy.com/making-people-want-to-help-you.

Presenter Kathy Ryan is an award-winning author and owner of Pinnacle Coaching Group LLC. Over the last 30 years, Ryan has influenced people in the business and nonprofit sectors through coaching, consulting, speaking and on-site training. Her expertise covers a wide range of subjects including leadership, communication, human resources management, team dynamics and performance management.

Other webinars she has hosted for IJ Academy include:

  • How to Have the Tough Conversations
  • Performance Management Process
  • Leadership Land Mines and How to Avoid Them

Ryan is author of the book “You Have to Say the Words: An Integrity-Based Approach for Tackling Tough Conversations and Maximizing Performance,” which won a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association. Her blog, “Inspired Leadership,” is available at www.CoachKathyRyan.com.

Moving Through the Ranks

Addressing managers aspiring to become leaders and leaders seeking to attain higher levels of leadership, Ryan also discussed the importance of 360-degree influence—learning how to build influence at all levels of your organization:

• To develop influence with your boss, she said that you must first own 100 percent of the responsibility for the quality of your relationship. Don’t simply be a victim and complain; be willing to address the situation and make changes to create a more positive relationship.

Get to know your bosses—who they are, what motivates them, their priorities and goals, any hot buttons. Take the time to observe, listen and learn what you can about everyone senior to you, as they all might have a say in your career.

Commit yourself to making your boss look good and doing whatever it takes to lighten their load. Show that you’re responsible and dependable, able to step up and handle the situation as needed.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your boss for what you need when it comes to personal development, including feedback, career advice, mentoring, support, resources and opportunities for advancement.

• The first step to developing influence with your peers is to look at the relationship as an equal partnership, where neither of you acts as the “boss.” Treat all peers with respect and professionalism, even if you don’t like them personally. Learn about your peers and try to find common ground—something that can make the partnership an enjoyable experience. Care enough to share honest feedback if your co-worker is struggling and be willing to listen to any feedback you receive without getting defensive.

Most importantly, Ryan stressed the need to be trustworthy and avoid engaging in office gossip or talking behind your co-workers’

• When it comes to influencing your team, it’s important to show your confidence in their ability to succeed. Set high expectations and believe that they can and will exceed them.

Once again, do your best to get to know your people—what motivates them; their hopes, dreams and fears; their professional aspirations. Show your commitment to helping them grow and develop beyond just training for a specific task and provide detailed feedback to let them know how they’re doing.

• Finally, find ways to give their work meaning and purpose, no matter their position in the organization.