13 Ways An ‘Uncharismatic’ Leader Can Exert A Positive Influence

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Member

Winning others over—a.k.a. WOO—is a strength that often depends on a person’s innate charisma and charm. Not everyone is naturally comfortable exerting these qualities. Executives, in particular, can find themselves facing an uphill challenge if they fall short when it comes to WOO; in their roles, they often need to win others over to new ideas or inspire their teams to go the extra mile.

Fortunately, there are other strengths and talents that can be leveraged to inspire the positive change you’re seeking. Here, 13 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss how they would coach an executive leader who’s struggling to exert a “winning” influence.

Featured members share ways for uncharismatic leaders to exert a positive influence.
Forbes Coaches Council members share ways for uncharismatic leaders to exert a positive influence.

1. Focus On Those You Want To Impact

Influence is often more about how a leader relates to others and how that leader makes others feel than it is about the leader himself or any particular quality that leader might possess, innate or learned. To WOO, make sure your focus is not on yourself but on the others you want to impact. – Michele Cohen, Lead to Growth Coaching

2. Be A Person Of Impeccable Integrity

I would coach the executive to be a person of impeccable integrity and to get clarity on the core principles and values in their personal and professional lives. With that clarity, they would then have the strength of discernment in their listening to hear when another person shares any of those same core values and principles. That can serve as a foundation of trust upon which to exert influence. – Najuma Abiela, SOULCHI

3. Tell A Real-Life Story Of Transformation

Tell a simple real-life story of transformation about someone who’s just like the audience you want to inspire. Help them imagine they are the hero, guided by your product or service as the “Yoda” or “Gandalf,” and take them to the “promised land.” It’s the classic hero’s journey that anyone can relate to. You don’t need to depend on charisma to tell a meaningful story. – Mike Koenigs, The Superpower Accelerator

4. Lean On Your Positive Characteristics

Charisma and charm can be developed; there’s no charisma “gene.” Traits such as optimism, sociability, empathy and approachability can be learned and amplified to increase your influencing success rate. A leader may have other characteristics, such as humor, trust and credibility, to lean into and leverage. Consider your audience, the outcome you’re trying to achieve and how you can support them. – Susan Sadler, Sadler Communications LLC

5. Learn What The Other Party Values

Coaching an executive to increase their WOO is about authenticity, preparation and follow-up. While winning others over can be natural for some, others need to prepare for high-value interactions by learning what the other party values, acting authentic (including admitting unease in new relationships) and following up afterward to check on relationship progress. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

6. Look For Ways To ‘Flip’ Your Existing Strengths

Set out to stretch by using your less-used influence styles. If you find using facts is your default, search for opportunities to inspire using stories. If asserting your point of view is something you’re good at, consider how bridging on what’s been said by others would be the better way to connect ideas. It just may be that you have the skills and simply need to focus on employing them in combination. – Sheila Goldgrab, Goldgrab Leadership Coaching

7. Share Your Skills And Experience

Coaching and mentoring can be great skills to exert positive influence. Offer to share your skills and let others benefit from your experience. Another way is to simply show that you care. Listen when people speak, answer questions sincerely, remember people’s names and what they told you last time they spoke, and so on. – Rajeev Shroff, Cupela Consulting

8. Increase Awareness And Connections

As a leader, you have a responsibility to influence behavior. Get to know the people you want to influence and build relationships with. Increase your awareness and connect with them. What do they enjoy and value in their work? What inspires them and gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment? – Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training – Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers

9. Seek Clarity On Your Natural Strengths And Preferences

Self-awareness is vital if you’re to be able to leverage your strengths appropriately. Cross-referencing against a few different assessments offers a breadth and depth of understanding of self. Next, become more curious about what your natural preferences and strengths could look like in one-on-one and group dynamics, and how you could build rapport, which over time will build influence. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory

10. Listen Closely, And Always Share The Full Details Of Plans

Talk less, ask questions and listen. Show you understand by reflecting back what you heard. Get people talking about themselves more and they’ll walk away feeling energized and connected to you, because the majority of people just talk about themselves and their ideas. When communicating ideas and plans, be sure to hit the big picture and the details. Be sure to touch on the why, what and how. – Chris Herndon, lucidly™️

11. Be Clear About You Want For Others

Start wanting for. We have all experienced (all too often) being in conversations with people who want something from us. It’s the rare exception that we are in conversation with someone who wants something for us. Leaders who are clear as they enter an interaction about what they want for the other person tend to win that person over, with or without WOO as a top talent. Try it! – David Taylor-Klaus, DTK Coaching, LLC

12. Visualize Calm, Confident Behavior

A well-known strategy in world-class athletics is to visualize success. Visualization activates the same areas of the brain that having the experience in reality does. This same strategy also works for charisma and charm! By visualizing calm, confident, magnetic behavior, a leader can literally create new neural pathways and eventually step into those desired behaviors in real life. – Stephanie Judd, Wolf & Heron

13. Learn From Your Team Members’ Strengths

When coaching an executive leader around this topic, I bring forward the impact having a diversity of strengths can have on a team when used consistently. Who on your team has WOO as a strength? What could you apply to your own personal style? What would be the impact? Demonstrate humility as a leader—you do not have to exude every strength. Learn from your team, and apply those lessons in your own style. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space