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Being an influential woman

Identifying your influencing approach, reputation, resilience and career planning are all key to becoming influential as a woman

There are many influential women in all walks of life – politics, business, the professions, sport and the arts to name a few. Some of these women will readily admit that luck has played a major role for them, but surely that cannot be the only answer. We believe that there are many things women can do to help themselves be more influential and powerful.

Your influencing approach

Being influential is essentially a relationship skill. A major factor is an appreciation of your influencing style and approach. Most of us have a preferred way of working with others. This will be based on habitual behaviours that develop because you have found that certain approaches, behaviours and skills seem to work for you. Look at the below and try to identify your primary approach:

Directive. An expert-driven style where you assert your views and perspectives and expect others to follow.

Collaborative. A team-oriented style where your aim is to involve others in the influencing process.

Persuasive reasoning. An issue-driven style where your main aim is to get others to buy into your ideas.

Inspirational. A people-oriented style where the aim is to appeal to the emotions of others to get their buy-in.

Understanding your natural style is important but the real skill is to be able to flex it to suit the situation. Being aware of your approach and ability to flex this appropriately will contribute to the next area: reputation.


Take account of the language you use, how you use your voice, your body language and the overall visual impression you create. If you want to be regarded as positive and trustworthy then you must demonstrate a range of characteristics. How many of the words below would others use to describe you? Which of these characteristics do you feel are important?

  • Integrity
  • Sincerity
  • Genuine
  • Trustworthy
  • Principled
  • Honest
  • Consistent
  • Morally upright
  • Speaks up and out
  • Dependable
  • Distinctive
  • Compassionate
  • Self-disclosing
  • Demonstrates respect for self and others
  • Acts with goodwill
  • Reliable
  • Visible

The importance of being resilient

Resilience is something we often take for granted until it’s gone. Sometimes what pushes us over the edge can seem almost trivial but it is the extra or unexpected task. Suddenly we feel under a huge amount of pressure, which has probably been building for months but we didn’t realise.

You can develop your resilience. Here are a couple of ideas how:

  • Compartmentalise. Essentially this is about focus and using ‘mindfulness’ to great effect. It is giving work your full attention while you’re there, but then giving home the same focus. Multi-tasking may be much admired but it can create more problems than it solves.
  • Top up on energy levels each week. Learn when to say ‘no’ – you do not have to accept everything that comes your way. Remember that ‘me time’ and keeping healthy are key components to maintaining energy reserves and resilience. This will help you cope in times of pressure. So eat well and avoid too many late nights.

Planning the career journey

Not everyone spends enough time considering this important question. But if you reflect on what you want in your working life and understand your own values you are likely to achieve more.

There are many people around you who will be more than willing to help with advice, expertise and practical support, perhaps as a mentor or coach. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a mentor or coach is a limited option. Think more about the approach taken by sports personalities who often work together with their coach for the long term.

Find ways to develop and plan your career as this will make a difference. It’s never too late to begin, so take charge of your career journey!

Fiona Elsa Dent is associate faculty member at Ashridge and co-author of How to Thrive and Survive as a Working Woman: the Coach Yourself Toolkit with Viki Holton, senior research fellow at Ashridge Executive Education