Imagine for a moment that top management at your workplace surveyed all members of leadership asking, “Who are the most respected and influential individuals regardless of job title in our organization?” Would your name appear at least 10 times in the survey results? If so, then you might be an opinion leader, as defined by authors of the book Influencer.
Opinion leaders, as described in Influencer, comprise about 13% of the general population. They are smart and open to ideas. They aren’t the absolute first to try bold new ideas (that’s the “innovator” crowd) but they adopt new ideas fairly early. They are socially well-connected and respected by many people. And here’s the kicker: nearly 85% of the general population won’t adopt a new idea until the opinion leaders do.
What makes an opinion leader?
1. Seen as knowledgeable about the issue at hand. It’s not enough to be seen as generally “smart”, opinion leaders are perceived as an expert in the topic being discussed. They are also known to have drawn upon many sources to keep their expertise fresh.
2. Viewed as trustworthy. Opinion leaders are not seen as “in it for themselves”. Rather, they have a reputation for keeping the big picture in mind and creating a solution that’s best for their company.
3. Generous with their time and are accessible. Opinion leaders are the ones who are “out in the trenches” maintaining connections with all levels in the organization. They are never seen as “too busy” or “above it all” to pitch in and help out.
What does this mean to you?
If you are a leader: don’t underestimate the power of opinion leaders. Keep in mind that opinion leaders operate in all areas of your organization. They can just as easily kill your idea as support it. It’s up to you to decide how to best engage them.
If you are an individual contributor: you can be an opinion leader. You don’t need a specific job title and the three traits are something that’s within everyone’s reach.
Making things happen is the name of the game in all organizations. Want to be part of the action? Keep these three traits in mind and you’re on your way to being an influencer.
photo credit: istockphoto.com © Alice Day