How do you develop leadership by influence?

The most popular words I’ve heard about being a PM are “you lead by influence”, what resources would you recommend developing this skill? Courses, books, blogs, experiences, anything is welcome.


Influencing without authority is about building trust. Quick wins, doing what you say you’ll do, by when you say you’ll do it. Deferring and giving praise/credit to those who know it best. When making an argument, know why you’re making it


Well said. Also learn to figure out what motivates those you are trying to influence. What’s their goal? Move a certain metric? Get a promotion?




This is the most important aspect of influencing without authority.

Once you know what they want, you can tie everything you want to their reasons. It makes easier to influence them

The other thing that works is building relationships - I always say it’s easier to convince a room full of friends vs. a room of colleagues


The classic: “How to win friends and influence people. “

“Bring the donuts”

“Extreme ownership”


Don’t fall into the trap of thinking leadership of any kind is a thing you do to others. Leadership is at it’s core a relationship in which one person trusts the other enough to follow them because they want to go where they’re being lead of their own accord.

Focus on learning what other people or teams are trying to accomplish by talking to them. Run the five whys with them — work from their wants to their needs until you get to something specific. Understand what success is to them and what it means if they achieve it. Now take a beat and read that again. It sounds obvious and it is. When you do it — if you’re lucky — they’ll have answers but here’s where it gets real — there’s a good chance they won’t really know what their goal is — it’ll be some foggy thing. Work with them to build a shared understanding of what their goal could be for the moment, even if it will change later. Then help them achieve it within the bounds of your relationship. You’re now helping them achieve their own goals, a crucial element of building the trust necessary to lead with influence. As you do this again and again, share what you’re trying to accomplish and Venn diagram your goals and their goals and work out what’s shared and do what you can to support it and invite them to do the same. You have now arrived.

Over time, you’ll be solving both small and big problems for others by not just jumping in and doing something for them but by working with them through the hard stuff as a team. Helping them through the fog will naturally lead them to intuitively trusting you — not because you used the right words or persuaded them with a trick or food but because you’ve earned their trust. You put in work on their behalf and showed them you got their back.

In the end, you’ll have gained a lot of trust and shown you can help people find a way forward, just like a leader.

Of course, don’t be a jerk too. No one wants to work with a jerk.


That’s a great insight @RichardsonEva.

  1. Look at the strategy and roadmap on another team and figure out how they can align with your team on some particular point, to make both team outcomes stronger.
  2. Convince that team lead on the merits of the idea.
  3. Execute on the steps required (meetings, process, decisions, etc.) to stay aligned and deliver in the agreed upon way.

If you have led that type of negotiation/collaboration, a skill most PMs have to have, then congratulations - you just led by influence vs. by reporting hierarchy or official mandate.


Like most other soft skills, this comes with practice. Books etc help, but nothing beats just trying it out.

Fundamentally, there are three things to solve for here - who to influence, how to influence, and what to influence for. Each combination will be different enough that you will need to have a repertoire of ways to handle specific situations.

For example, senior leader is pulling the rug under your project and not giving you funding? Person is not a “data person” but listens to their team? Influence through their team and position why funding this would be good news for that leader and their team.

Partner team is asking you to take on a bunch of their roadmap, and the leader is a data driven guy? Figure out what is going to drop off as a result of that, get those impacted stakeholders in the same room and lay out whats being impacted and why.

The one piece that’s important, is that influence is an ongoing thing. Find ways to earn some brownie points from teams that you will need to rely on, so you have some equity to cash in when and if needed.


Typically, if you show that you are working for them, then you get something back. And of course, this works if you show that you have the authority and the guts to drive things, i.e., you are the guy who can push their work.


Influence < Trust < Relationship < Rapport

Tricky parts:

  • Building a relationship requires some empathy - you have to understand where other party comes from, cares about etc., and help them understand the same about you. Then you do (small) things that help them achieve their goals. Feedback loops also help build solid relationships.
  • Trust takes time, there are no shortcuts. There are few components of trust which all need to fall in place for trust to happen. [1] Competence - the other side has to perceive you as “this guy/gal knows what s/he is doing”. [2] Benevolence - others need to see you don’t have hidden agendas or do things behind their backs. Being transparent really helps. [3] Integrity - high integrity is pivotal. I can’t trust someone who’ll change their story 180 degrees once a few bullets fly over their head.

When you get people to trust you, you’ll influence them. It’s easy, just takes a ton of time, being competent, benevolent, and having rock-solid integrity :slight_smile:


Agree with several posts on this thread - building credibility, building trust, acknowledging and giving credit etc.

I’ll also add - having a communication style where you own the room is extremely important.

I’ve seen a lot of people who know a lot, but their style of speaking comes across as they don’t know what they are talking about.


Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Course: Designing Influence by NN/G: Designing Influence | Full-Day UX Training Course by NN/g (it’s technically a UX course, but it can definitely be generalized to product management)


I think building up trust is the answer here. You need to be in regular communication with your stakeholders and listen to what they have to say. It might take some time at first but in the long run this usually makes you faster.


I often joke with teams that PMs are responsible for everything, But own nothing.

This may start some thoughts: Servant Leadership for Product Managers | ProductCraft by Pendo

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As a programmer I trust a PM when they show they understand the customer deeply. They have a good guess about how customers will respond to some change, and how to interpret results of changes.