Project Grow

15 Traits That Set Influential People Apart

Influential leaders spark change for the better.
15 Traits That Set Influential People Apart
Image credit: 10'000 Hours | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Influence can’t be achieved through intimidation or coercion. It comes from within -- from a person’s ability to inspire and motivate those around them.

Becoming an influential leader has nothing to do with titles and everything to do with gaining the admiration, confidence and trust of those around you. It’s about how you engage with others and how your vision rallies people to you. It may seem hard to nail down what exactly allows a person to hold sway over others, but there are certain traits that are unique to these natural leaders.

Do you have what it takes to inspire and influence others? Check out these 15 traits to see if you have what sets influential people apart from the rest.

1. They act deliberately.

Influence doesn’t happen by magic; it comes through deliberate and intentional behavior and practices. Influential people move through life with purpose, conscious of their actions and of how others may perceive them.

They focus on ways to create the impact they wish to have and achieve the outcomes they are aiming for. They give constructive feedback and show appreciation for hard work. They aren’t sneaky or divisive; they make their intentions known with clear objectives and goals.

Related: 15 Traits of Unstoppable People

2. They speak thoughtfully and listen.

They mean what they say. Influential people don’t engage in gossip or unfounded attacks on other people. They seek to rise above the petty. To become influential, you must create clear and concise messages and make sure you are effectively communicating your ideas.

Just as important, influential people know when to quiet their inner dialogue and put the focus on those around them. This is the best way to gain insights and information you might otherwise miss.

3. They take action.

Influential leaders aren’t afraid of taking risks or making decisions. They don’t allow themselves to become stuck or paralyzed by an unforeseen situation. They take action, move forward and find a way around roadblocks. They think before they speak, but they don’t hesitate to jump in when necessary.

They set up productive daily routines that help them stay focused on accomplishing their goals. But even when they’re acting spontaneously, they’re thinking strategically, ensuring they have a plan of action even in the midst of challenges and change. 

4. They’re always learning.

Influential leaders are constantly learning and growing. They understand the importance of cultivating a mind that is open to new ideas and perspectives. They consider themselves students of life, continually upgrading their skills and challenging themselves to expand their knowledge.

Knowledge can give you the tools to adapt to different situations and understand what’s going on around you. After all, knowledge is power and power is influence.

Related: Why You Should Strive to Be a Lifelong Learner

5. They have integrity.

Influence is something that must be earned through integrity and honesty. Influential people recognize that others will hold them up as an example to emulate. They are authentic and credible in their actions and encounters, and they understand that their reputation is the foundation of their ability to influence and lead.

By being consistently trustworthy and honest in your dealings, you’ll inspire others to adopt your ideas and support your vision. Influence and respect come by doing what you say you’ll do and following through on your promises. You must be seen as reliable and sincere, genuine and thoughtful.

6. They connect.

Constructing genuine relationships has a way of melting people’s defenses and making them open to new ideas. This is why influential people work to relate to others in a deep and meaningful way. They act as a conduit to bring people together and help others feel connected to one another.

You must look for ways to get those around you excited and interested in something -- involved in a larger goal or project. Influential people find ways to add value to the groups they collaborate with and have a positive impact on those around them.

Related: 7 Scientifically Proven Steps to Increase Your Influence

7. They’re focused on what really matters.

Influential people don’t allow themselves to become embroiled in trivial matters or silly competitions. They aren’t trying to win every argument or steer every conversation. They’re looking to truly understand others and help others feel part of something larger than themselves.

They’re focused on what really matters -- on long-term goals and achievements, and on making sure the end result meets the highest standards. You must be determined to succeed and willing to work hard to make it happen.

Related: 4 Ways to Break Your Phone Addiction So You Can Focus on What Really Matters

8. They have high expectations for themselves and others.

Influential people draw others to them. They’re passionate and engaging, and they compel others to believe in them. Influential people set high expectations for themselves and others.

They have relentless enthusiasm that drives those around them to accomplish amazing things and to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones. They encourage others to rise to the challenge and confront obstacles. They understand that failure is possible, but at the same time they recognize that success won’t happen if they don’t try.

Related: Make Genuine Connections at Work, and Success Will Follow

9. They understand themselves.

In order to be an effective and influential leader, you need to understand yourself first. Influential people take time to reflect on who they are and understand their values and larger goals.

They’re aware of their thoughts and feelings, and of how they process and convey those emotions to others. They’re comfortable in their own skin and are aware of how they react to various situations. They understand their motivations and what makes them tick.

10. They focus on their strengths but understand their weaknesses.

Influential people recognize and learn to rely on their strengths, but just as important, they recognize the areas they are weakest in. By being aware of your vulnerabilities, you can take steps to manage or counter them. 

True self-awareness comes from seeing yourself clearly. Your strengths can propel you to incredible heights and help you leverage influence over others. But your weaknesses can hold you back from achieving all the things you dream of. You can’t fully appreciate who you are, and you can’t truly leverage your influence, until you recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses.

Related: How to Recognize Your Biggest Weaknesses As a Leader (and Why You Should)

11. They make themselves indispensable.

To have influence means to have prominence -- it means there is something about you that others see as significant and important. To be influential, you must find ways to become indispensable: someone who solves important problems and is essential to accomplishing significant goals.

Influential people find ways of making themselves continually relevant and vital by updating their skills and leveraging their strengths. They’re nimble and versatile enough to adapt to changing circumstances. They create synergy and collaboration between stakeholders.

Related: Want to Be Engaged in Your Career? Be Indispensable.

12. They value others.

Influential people understand the importance of acknowledging and recognizing those around them. They let others shine, knowing that the success of others doesn’t diminish their own achievements. They value those who have been part of their journey. 

They spend time really listening to those around them. They understand that keeping lines of communication open is key to avoid closing themselves off to opportunities. They see the strengths in others and surround themselves with those who can help fill in areas they are weakest in.

13. They’re constantly analyzing.

Influential people are able to quickly analyze and assess situations. They understand that they need to stay relevant as they face challenges.

Circumstances and conditions are constantly changing, and influential leaders know to keep close tabs on their environment so they can adjust. They stay up on trends and remain aware of what competitors are doing, but they also welcome the critical thinking of others, and they embrace innovation and creative problem solving.

Related: Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Recruiters?

14. They make sure others have a voice.

Influential people have empathy for others, and they want to make those around them feel understood and heard. They recognize that everyone needs a voice and must be able to speak their mind.

Empowering others is key to making sure they feel valued and included. If you want to be an influential leader, try disengaging your mouth for a while and engage in active listening, during which you really hear what other people are saying. Listening to those around you is paramount to promoting open and honest communication and getting concrete feedback from others.

Related: The 4 Levels of Listening: Why Every Good Entrepreneur Should Talk Less

15. They inspire.

Influential people convey optimism. They see possibilities and opportunities that others miss. They inspire us because we want to be like them. They raise us up and make us want to do the right thing, to be the best that we can be, to keep pushing boundaries.

To be influential, you must push yourself and others to do what seems impossible. You must take on the hard task or the project that seems overwhelming, but that will be amazingly fulfilling and important if you can accomplish it. As an influential leader, you wield the ability to spark change in those around you. Make sure it’s for the better.

More from Entrepreneur

Dustin's experience and expertise can help you monetize your message, build a marketing strategy and connect with influencers.
Book Your Session

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.