In a world where collecting “Friends” and “Followers” is the latest and greatest pastime, it’s nice to be popular.

But to achieve more, make more and have more in life, you’ll find it’s more important for your personal and professional success to be an influencer.

Being popular seems more…well, popular…than influence because it’s a term we’re all familiar with. While men use influence all the time to get ahead, women equate it with manipulation, and don’t really understand what it means.

I want to set the record straight. Because for the woman who wants real power—the know-how to act in ways that consistently benefit you—while popularity and influence may seem alike on the surface, in reality they’re worlds apart.

What is popularity?

If popularity means regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general, then from a young age, girls are taught that being well liked and talked about by her peers has tremendous value.

With its instant rewards of inclusion and acceptance, what schoolgirl doesn’t dream of being popular?

You may have jumped through hoops to avoid (like the plague) the opposite of being popular: rejection. Not being part of the “in” crowd can leave lifelong scars of “not enough-ness.”

The driving force of the school environment teaches us that inner confidence depends on outer status or circumstance.

Women who sought outside approval in school may continue to wear a thorny crown of popularity as adults; suffering with an unconscious need to be well liked by in-laws, colleagues, clients and even strangers.

My coaching clients who fall into this category tell me they find themselves agreeing with friends they don’t agree with, “Just to keep the peace.”

To which I say, “Being popular is easy. Just look outside yourself, see what everybody else wants, and give it to them.”

You’ll rack up lots of praise and lots of Twitter Followers. But you’ll be tremendously deficient in power.

Which leads us to …

The meaning of influence

Influence is the capacity or power of a person to be a compelling force to produce effects on the actions, behavior or opinions of self or others.

It is not dominance or “power over.” To exhibit influence is to be of benefit.

Influence means congruency. I like to say “inner fluency.” The success of your inner fluency is to the exact degree that the beliefs you hold in your heart, the thoughts you think, the words you say and the actions you take line up.

Influence is the art of taking that congruency and shining it on the world.

There’s a reason this is so important.

As humans, we’re all seeking happiness. If you dream about being wealthy, looked up to or loved, the deeper, (mostly unconscious) longing is to be secure, strong, self-contained and content.

It doesn’t matter whether our current emotional state is happy or sad. We’re going to exhibit behaviors that we believe are going to bring us the most happiness (or ease our pain) at the moment.

Mostly we seek happiness through popularity or influence. Popularity is a habit. Influence is an intention.

More real world differences between popularity and influence

To begin with, a person is popular by proxy of an audience; meanwhile a person has influence through the cultivation of skill. The former is from the outside in; the latter from the inside out.

Popularity is based on what others think and how they choose to perceive you. Influence is the action or ability of causing yourself or someone to behave in a certain way, one that is in your favor, without causing harm to the other.

Influence naturally sparks inspiration that makes a person act.

Meanwhile, being popular is no guarantee another person will do what you want. However, influence, properly understood and respected, can do that.

And the opposite may be true: Being popular could cause you to take action you’d rather not do, while the power to influence yourself has the capacity to propel your life forward in ways never before experienced.

Popularity involves general masses of people. It’s a numbers game—quantity that’s usually chosen over quality, based on the thoughts, beliefs and emotions of other people that determines whether or not we get their vote.

Influence is a one-person operation. Like any other skill, influence is mastered through practice and application. There’s an entire biology and psychology to it.

To master the art of influence, you must first learn its tactics, apply them, and then analyze your thinking and situations that worked well while noting your failures. This awareness trains your conscious mind so that you can decide exactly which tactic to apply and when.

Popularity is being liked in the moment. Influence is motivating someone (you or another) to feel something.

It’s nice to be popular but it’s more important to be influential.

When women are looking for guidance, advice and answers to move their life forward in a certain direction, they’ll return to what matters most—an influencer they trust—regardless of how many lists she’s on.

With my “Influence By Design” blog, for instance, I’m not counting web hits. All that matters is that there’s a reader today I influenced, (enhanced her life) in a positive way.

After reading the above, what’s your story? Are you popular, an influencer, both?


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina