Think for a minute about the people who have influenced you the most as a leader. What were they like? What made them influence you? What made you be influenced by them? 

One definition of influence (as taken from the dictionary) is: “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command; the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.” Simply put, influence is the ability to move others into complying with your wishes.

Why, you might ask, would anyone on the dairy want to comply with your wishes?

Influence clearly affects the way people accept or comply with a proposition or request you make. Here are six principles that apply:

Reciprocity.  It is a fact, people give back what another has given to them. If you give kindness and smiles, you will probably get them back. On dairies, giving a helping hand is reciprocated with help from others when we need it.

Consistency.  Employees are always watching how consistent their managers are with their actions. How consistent are you?

Social Proof. People often decide what to do by looking at what similar others have done — somewhat akin to “Keeping up with the Joneses.” In the same way, we decide which rules we should follow by finding out what other people think is correct. This is even truer if people are in a state of uncertainty — uncertain people can be influenced much easier. The more people are alike, the stronger this principle is. So, when attempting to influence behavior, illustrate what others in similar positions have done to be successful.

Liking. Do your employees like you?  People are more easily influenced by those they like. Likeability consists of several elements: physical attractiveness, similarity, praise, contact and association. People tend to say “yes” more easily to someone they like or they want to identify with. The more you are in contact with someone, or the more you frequent the same environment, the more likely you are to be influenced by that person.

Authority. The influential power of authority is undeniable. Your position as owner or manager of the dairy helps you exert influence. The problem comes when managers rely on this source of influence more heavily than others. For you, the title and role may go together, but it is also important for you to be seen as a true source of reliable information — a credible leader.

Scarcity. Items and opportunities become more desirable when they are less accessible. Uniqueness or a sense that something is difficult to attain can be strong influencers. A unique position on the dairy may be desired by several people. And, more money is always a strong influencer. Immigrant workers often want more hours because they may have come from another country where the pay scales are “scarce” by U.S. standards.

So, how do you apply these principles on a practical basis? Not all principles can be applied in any given situation — or with anyone. Often, the principles are best applied in combination with each other, depending on your leadership style.