How to Influence Without Authority
Business Career

How to Influence Without Authority

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Power is most commonly associated with having the authority to act. In the practice of law, we link this idea to the law of agency and the theories of actual and apparent authority.

[Related: Executive Presence: 6 Ways to Standout at Work]

However, in business, the nucleus of power is found at the nexus of industry, position, and the ability to leverage social assets. The perception of actual and apparent authority derived from this cross section of variables speaks volumes for how we relate and define social cache.

But what if you don’t have power in the traditional sense? Think it might prevent you from influencing others? Think again. Your ability to influence others is actually found in how well you navigate the language of power: your ability to successfully leverage leadership, communication, and persuasion.

Want to learn to influence without authority?

Here’s how:

1. Use your words. Language can be a wonderful asset, but only if you know how to use it. Ever wonder how to boost your mastery of language? Increasing your vocabulary is a powerful way to begin. Knowing how to express yourself with greater precision and diversity is one of the most effective ways of becoming a first-class communicator and successfully influencing others.

Oral communication skills are one of the most coveted professional proficiencies in the business world. Why? They make the most obvious and immediate impact on others. If you can speak with competence and confidence, you will definitely stand out among your peers and gain the respect and recognition of others, even those in more senior positions. So, instead of assuming that a lack of actual authority is a bar to influence, learn to master language and use it to your advantage.

2. Action speaks louder than words: Lead. Another interesting, yet erroneous assumption is that positions and titles beget leadership. Not necessarily, and perhaps not ever. There are numerous examples the world over that demonstrate the opposite to be true. Leadership is far more complex a concept than simply waving around a title and assuming that ‘they will come.’ They won’t. People are compelled to follow someone with a vision that inspires, who cares deeply about what matters most to them and who leads by example.

What’s fascinating is that you don’t have to be at the top of the corporate food-chain to lead. You can lead exactly where you are, and the effects can easily reverberate up an down the ranks. There’s no time like the present. You can choose to prioritize leadership development at anytime in your career. Target opportunities at work and seek out professional development courses that focus on the application of core leadership skills in a professional setting. Moreover, don’t limit your potential experience to your work environment. You can find plenty of opportunities to assume leadership roles in outside organizations with less trouble than you might think.

3. Don’t get wrapped up in seeking praise or avoiding blame. A fundamental rule in navigating the concept of influence is not getting caught up in the two extremes of ‘artificial feedback’. Praise-seeking can become addictive as a way to validate your worth or contributions. If you come to actively rely on the ‘they think I’m great’ platitudes and lose sight of your own inner compass (forgetting how to appreciate and confidently advocate for your own good work), you can deeply damage your self-esteem.

Avoiding blame works in the reverse. It makes you gun-shy about receiving negative feedback, even constructive criticism, which is important to your long-term growth. The flip side of this is that when you are criticized (even appropriately), your knee-jerk reaction is to nullify your self-worth and value, thereby undermining and eventually eroding your self-concept.

The point: Be your own best barometer and listen to trusted advisors when it comes to soliciting and embracing needed feedback.

Thought you needed to be the head honcho in order to influence others in business? You don’t. The language of power is the nuanced combination of art and science. You have the potential to master it.

To your success.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport  or visit her website,