The Five Disciplines of Influence Intelligence*

Natural leaders, well-liked executives, and successful managers have one skill in common: they lead through influence. While they may not always have direct reports, they are able to drive consensus, garner approval, and inspire teams to get work done. These folks are generally positive and congenial and often fun to be around. People follow them, look up to them, and help them achieve their goals.

Photo by ALAN DE LA CRUZ on Unsplash

Influence Management is expressed across several dimensions of business acumen. Finding the synergies and building interconnections across business skills and soft skills are what enable and sustain individual success in business and in leadership roles.

In the revised seminal book on the topic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” by Dale Carnegie, we learn that soft skills and technical skills have a natural correlation.

“Soft skills such as compassion and empathy drive hard skills such as programming, operations, and design to a rare effectiveness.
How? Soft skills link hard skills to operational productivity,
organizational synergy, and commercial relevance because
all require sound human commitment.”

What Is Influence Management, Anyway?

Influence Management is a key leadership skill that can be learned and taught depending upon your level of Influence Intelligence.

Influence intelligence can be broken down into five aspects, which are discussed in the article that follows. To learn or teach these skills, you must first assess where you or your team are today and document the delta of where you want to be. By doing this, you can focus on the areas you need to improve. Regularly reviewing and monitoring progress is also critical. Ideally, these multifaceted disciplines must be braided together to achieve the level of Influence Management that will work for you. One last caution for building this mastery: strive for improvement over time; in other words – strive for PROGRESS, not perfection.

The Five Disciplines of Influence Intelligence


What does it mean to engage authentically and to be one’s true self? It comes down to these core attributes:

  • Follow conventional rules, but challenge rules that are unfair.
  • Be trustworthy and truthful in all interactions in order to build credibility; don’t keep secrets, but don’t be a gossip either.
  • Always leave a good impression by being constructive and ethical, but don’t be perceived as trying too hard.
  • Listen attentively and “seek first to understand.”


To achieve this discipline, you must be willing to commit to you work and to complete quality deliverables regularly. In the simplest terms, you must always do what you said you would do and prove you have done it. The key attributes of this discipline include:

  • Build and join teams to drive important initiatives.
  • Deliver on time and without excuses.
  • Create a reputation for keeping promises.


This discipline can be particularly challenging in high stress environments with constant change and competing priorities. Try to focus on each of the attributes below in order to positively promote your expertise and achievements:

  • Be positive and cheerful – not gloomy – in both body language, verbal and written communications, even when sharing bad news. A simple and genuine smile can take people very far in this regard.
  • Communicate effectively and clearly and use appropriate graphics and other visual aids to simplify and efficiently convey meaning.
  • Be the person people turn to for specific domain expertise; become the “go-to person.”
  • Add value by going the extra mile whenever possible.


A simple way to remember the core of this discipline is to focus on “WE before ME” to build the muscles of compromise and to always drive for win-win scenarios. In addition, focus on developing these attributes:

  • Be generous in negotiations in order to drive progress for the best result for the most people and the biggest business benefits.
  • Be assertive, but not aggressive and never be passive. (Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others. Aggressive people attack or ignore others’ opinions in favor of their own. Passive people don’t state their opinions at all.)
  • Use passion with diplomacy and tact in order to inspire people to action.


Relationships are at the center of all business interactions. Building effective networks takes focus, dedication and planning. Connecting with other people in a meaningful way at work requires all of the disciplines discussed so far and should also include the attributes below:

  • Always make and leave a good impression.
  • Be curious in your engagements with other people by asking the right questions.
  • Be appreciative of others’ input, feedback, contributions and efforts. Sharing a sincere “Thank You” is simple and direct.
  • Build social capital by being generous and helpful.
  • Make introductions to connect colleagues up, around, and across your network.

How To Perform An Assessment

To help determine your current level of Influence Intelligence, it may be helpful to use an assessment scoring system for each discipline like one below. List each attribute in a table and rate your performance (or your team’s performance), where:

  • 1= never displays this behavior
  • 3= occasionally displays behavior
  • 5= usually displays this behavior

Set goals and document progress. If you are working to develop your team, be sure to get their input on goals and then share feedback and tips to help them improve.


Instill these five disciplines in yourself and your teams to create more leaders at your company.

“The two highest levels of influence are achieved when
(1) people follow you because of what you’ve done for them and
(2) people follow you because of who you are.”

Dale Carnegie

Like learning to drive a car, it takes repetition and practice to master these skills, but over time, it becomes automatic and natural. You will internalize these disciplines and reach higher levels of Influence Intelligence.

As Carnegie reminds us, “… every interaction from your first good morning to your last goodnight is an opportunity to win friends and influence others in a positive way. Those who succeed daily lead quite successful lives.”

* This blog was previously posted on It has been revised for this site.

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