Be An Influential Leader (Featured On The Straits Times – 26 May 2017)


BE AN INFLUENTIAL LEADER – Win the hearts and minds of your people.

Leading people in the 21st century today requires a shift in mindsets and perspectives. The term Leadershift is becoming the byword when you discuss the concepts of leadership today.

Because people today are highly mobile nowadays, you can only retain talent by winning their hearts and minds. Rewards and recognition alone are no longer enough.  What is equally important is the character and standing of the leader they are following.

My favorite saying is, “people leave because of people, but people stay because of the leader”. Leaders who understand the power of Leadershift can harness a key underlying ability – influence.

Influence is the ability to shift mindset, shape emotion and sharpen behavior to achieve superior and consistent performances from the people around them.

Here are some of the key principles of Leadershift and what it entails:



Great leaders understand that they can inspire their people to act only through influence which only comes from trust in the leadership. An average leader can get the people to do things through the authority vested with them, but he will not get 100 per cent commitment from the people, unless they trust them.

I recall a discussion with a very senior officer in the military forces about the necessity of having influence leadership. Holding one of the highest ranks in the military formation, this officer is vested with a lot of authority.

From my experience in a special operations formation, I shared with the officer my conviction that trust was as important as rank, if not more. The pertinent question was, “Can you trust the person next to you to watch your back?”

If your fellow soldier has great trust in you, you possess influence. One’s rank is a secondary factor. As a leader, you also need your people to watch you back. So, wouldn’t it make perfect sense if your men are willing to fight the war because they are willing rather than just doing their part?

The officer was convinced.



Perhaps we have been conditioned by economics textbooks to see people merely as resources. But we know intuitively that people are more than that.

An Influential leader appreciates the fact that it is people who makes things work. Unlike resources, human beings are capable of turning anything around if they set their minds to it. An influential leader knows how to motivate the people to want to turn things around. This is impossible if the leader does not have the ability to influence them.



I have always believed that the truly great leaders who really make a mark in our lives are MAD. MAD stands for Making A Difference. You need to be special to make a difference. Consider some of these famous leaders: Nelson Mandela. Ghandi. Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the outset, their beliefs and actions seem outrageous, eccentric or “mad”. But they were leaders who dared to make a difference and subsequently changed lives. All of them have left their own indelible imprints in history and are influential leaders in their own right.