Today, in 2018, social media influencer is an actual job title. It is a position that many aspire to. It looks easy—you just build a following, affiliate with some brands, share information, and get paid. Piece of cake.
You don’t have to be an Instagram sensation to be a person of influence. The truth is you already are. Every day, you come into contact with people—family, friends, coworkers, etc.—with whom you share your knowledge and ideas. You’ve created and fostered those relationships with intention, and now those people value your knowledge and expertise. There is power in that.
At work, you don’t need to hold a position of power to have influence. In fact, people that rely primarily on positional power—that which comes from having a certain job title or position on the org chart–are not as effective as people who lead with personal power. Personal power can be developed and enhanced, and Generation X has many of the tools to build the social capital (relationships, trust, goodwill) necessary to become a person of influence at work:
When Generation X came of age, we were labeled as pessimistic and cynical. Looking back, it’s now widely accepted that GenX was the least protected generation in history. We came from families of divorce. We were “latch-key kids.” The government we trusted was mired in scandal. Space shuttles exploded and nuclear plants melted down.
Reality bit, but it taught us something—to value the authentic. Shoot us straight. We can handle it, and we’ll be real with you. Authentic leadership is something of a buzzword these days, but studies show that authentic leaders tend to be higher performers, as are their followers. Authenticity fosters trust, the most crucial ingredient in relationship building. When others see that you are a person of integrity, they may be more apt to align themselves with your vision.
That same coming-of-age experience allowed us to quickly figure out how to get things done in the face of challenges. It’s easy to mistake good old-fashioned GenX pragmatism for negativism in the workplace, especially when we’re sandwiched in between two generations (Baby Boomers and Millennials) known for their idealism.
Pragmatists focus on how to get things done. They can see the big picture but also potential barriers that could get in the way of success, and they tend to want to spend energy overcoming the roadblocks. Often times this can look like micromanaging, but in actuality, pragmatic leaders are as goal-focused as idealistic ones. Utilizing that GenX pragmatism by identifying and solving problems for your organization can elevate your influence.
The saying “knowledge is power” is popular because it’s true. The oldest members of GenX turned 50 in 2015. Thirty-eight percent of us have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many of us have careers that span decades. In other words, we know some things.
In order to strengthen your influence, share that knowledge with others. “What’s obvious to you is awesome to others” is a favorite quote of mine. Be confident in your skills and ability and position yourself as an expert resource in your organization.
Generation X shed the “slacker” label long ago. This is a hard-working generation. When early Generation X entered the workforce, they fought hard for work/life balance—something that made the Boomer bosses question their work ethic. However, studies show that even now, there is no difference between the work ethics of Boomers, GenX and even Millennials.
What is also common across the generations is the desire to find purpose in work and to feel that your job makes a difference. A strong work ethic can indicate a commitment to your organization and can show your coworkers that you are willing to work hard to make things better.
Developing influence isn’t about manipulation or the pursuit of power for its own sake. If you are interested in creating positive outcomes for yourself, for others and for your organization, tap into your GenX superpowers. They are at the foundation of what it takes to win both hearts and minds.