You are here

OWSD Nigeria National Chapter Presents "The Secret to Being an Influencer as a Science Leader"

November 25, 2020

OWSD Nigeria National Chapter University of Port Harcourt Branch series of scientific communications: Rachel Peterson on The Secret to Being an Influencer as a Science Leader

The Secret to Being an Influencer as a Science Leader




Rachel Peterson, MA, CPCC, CNTC, PCC



If you asked a young woman in your family or workplace what an, “influencer” is, she might respond that an influencer is a person (often a woman) on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube Reddit or other social media platform who has thousands or even millions of followers and who has the power to get people to buy certain products. It is interesting to note that social media influencers are often young women who have found a forum for their voices that was free and open and not controlled by men. And while this is NOT the kind of influencer we are talking about, there are certain traits that these social media influencers may possess that we could learn from.

First: To be an Influencer, know thyself

Know your Values: The greatest gift to having an influence is the personal feeling of your own significance and that of others. To be significant you desire to have a positive impact and to receive the recognition from others for your efforts and kindness. We all possess 3-5 core personal values – deep essential values – values around fairness, independence, integrity, trust, peace, belonging, comfort, respect, and/or stability, perhaps. Your core values led you to become a scientist – think about what those might be.

Have Confidence: Knowing yourself means having the confidence to believe in yourself (remember the words, “I can”) at the same time that you are open and curious to learning what the other person can teach you or can share with you. Trust that “everything is ‘figure-outable” and that including others in the solution with strength not only the outcome, but the relationship you have with the other (you are building your influence). Build your confidence by collaborating in your (scientific) field – leveraging diverse skills and strengths.

Be a Maximizer: Great influencers have the ability to see talents and strengths in others, usually before anyone else does. Let strengths, whether your own or those of others, inspire you. Follow scientists you admire to remain inspired! Work to develop your ability to see the bigger picture of those you lead and those you wish to do business with, and let it be your intention to help others live up to their full potential.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is the greatest vehicle for influencing others and society with your science. Every interaction with another person determines how you are perceived, and every interaction is an opportunity to develop trust and exert a positive influence. Whether presenting one-on-one or to an audience of one hundred, conveying information to a team or delivering a difficult message, communicating effectively is one of the most powerful tools for achieving your objectives and having an influence. You can influence policy with your science crafted as evidence.

As an Influencer: ask yourself:

• What attributes do I want to possess to create more trusting and meaningful relationships in the workplace?

• What values am I honoring in making this decision? Consider the integrity and ethics of science.

• How can I sustain trusting and respectful connections with my colleagues that empower us in taking the whole team and the organization forward into success? How can I bring influence to my research team so they grow and become more productive?


Second: How to lead by influence

Rebecca Knight, in Harvard Business Review, outlines six straight-forward steps to increasing our influence:

1. Build connections Cultivate personal connections with your colleagues and allow them to get to know you. One of the reasons people do things for you is because they like you. It is critical to have good rapport with your colleagues. This won’t translate directly into influence, of course, but it makes it more likely that others will at least hear what you have to say.

Make the most of the opportunities that the Organization for Women in Science in the Developing World (OWSD) University of Port Harcourt Branch, and similar organisations, offer you!


2. Listen before you try to persuade The best way to prime colleagues for backing you and your agenda is to make them feel heard. Start by giving them your undivided attention in one-on-one situations. Practice what is called, “the discipline of focus.” To do this, face the other person (in person or virtually), freeze in place, and listen. A big part of workplace resentment is people feeling disrespected and that their voices aren’t being heard. So, ask colleagues for their perspectives and advice and then LISTEN to it.


3. Mind your body language (and your tone) Our brains are constantly assessing whether to trust others or not, we are hardwired to be asking the question, ‘Is this person a friend or foe? Your body language is critical to conveying the right message. How you stand (tall, arms uncrossed), sit, lean forward, and the pitch of your voice (slightly lower demonstrates confidence slightly higher demonstrates nerves) can send signals to the other person.

This is a powerful TED lecture about the power of our body language:


4. Develop expertise Increase your influence at work by immersing yourself in your topic area but in a public manner. Think about who knows you in your research area. Regularly attend industry conferences, enroll in a webinar or specialized program to broaden your knowledge of supporting topics, or take on a leadership role in a relevant professional organization or association – visible and public signs that you are staying up to date and informed.


5. Map a strategy When it comes time to leverage the influence you’ve built to promote a particular initiative or concept, be strategic. Create a plan or map to guide your “campaign”, an organizational chart of the decision makers related to your issue. Look at each level and ask yourself, ‘Can I influence this person directly? If not, whom can I influence who can influence that person?’” Then strategize how and when you will approach these various colleagues.


6. Give people what they want Authentically frame your issue as a benefit to the people you want on your side. Consider each person’s needs, perspectives, and temperaments. Align your research with your needs of the society. Find out what each person needs to hear and what will capture their attention. Remember they will each be thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Use the word ‘we,’ as in ‘We’ll see value.’


So, the Secret to Being an Influencer?

Connect authentically with other people. Cultivate personal connections with colleagues so they assume positive intent when you attempt to influence them. Make it clear to your colleagues, your collaborators and members in your networks, that you value their opinions.

Best Practices of a Successful Influencer:

• Listen to people, and create a trusting and compassionate environment

• Share a clear vision, knowledge, and are inclusive

• Act as a positive role model for others

• Give options and latitude, allowing for calculated risks

• Take responsibility and ownership

• Inspire and elevate your team members and the whole organization

• Focus on solutions and avoid blaming others

• Demonstrate resilience in facing adversity

• Celebrate efforts, resilience, and success


Further Reading

Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Knight:

Forbes, Beth Kuhel:

ViGlobal, How to Become an Influencer at Work:

Inc., Jayson Demers:

Dorie Clark is one of the greatest thought-leaders on influence and self-branding in the workplace:

Success stories

Search form