When it comes to building influence, the actress formerly known as Meghan Markle is a case study in how to do it right.

Like so many aspects of leadership, building influence is easier said than done. Less than a month into her tenure as the Duchess of Sussex, Markle is already exerting her influence on one of the most staid institutions known to human: the British monarchy.

Her wedding to Prince Harry - perhaps the world's most eligible bachelor - was celebrated for its diversity and fairy tale trappings: the diamond tiara originally worn by Queen Mary, the open carriage ride through the town of Windsor, the star-studded guest list.

But beneath the sparkle, a close analysis of Markle's approach to her new role reveals her to be a brilliant practitioner of the rules of influence that any leader would do well to study.

Here are 4 lessons from Markle in the art of quiet power.

1. Use mirroring to put people at ease.

Like all great leaders, Markle understands that trust is a fundamental building block of influence. If you want people to see things your way and hear your message, they need to feel comfortable in your presence.

Soon after the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry, Markle began adopting body-language cues typical of royalty, such as an increasingly sedate wave or the "duchess slant".

The takeaway: Mirroring the physical cues of people you're meeting with sends a subtle message that you understand them and can be trusted.

2. Practice the shrewd breaking of rules.

Outstanding leaders don't reinforce the status quo - they paint a new vision. For decades, the royals have carefully avoided making political statements. But as much as Markle may employ subtle techniques such as mirroring to fit into her new role, she has demonstrated from the outset a willingness to defy convention.

A self-described "proud feminist," Markle has referenced both the Time's Up and Me Too movements during official royal engagements, and reinforced her commitment to women's empowerment in her official bio from Kensington Palace.

The takeaway: embrace shrewd rule-breaking in support of your vision and values.  When you show you're willing to take a stand in support of what you believe in, you enhance trust and credibility.     

3. Master the art of making a statement...without saying anything at all.

After enduring months of discriminatory press coverage, the bi-racial Markle masterminded the most diverse wedding in the history of the British monarchy. Rather than formally address racially offensive messages, Markle and Prince Harry used the ceremony itself to reinforce their focus on diversity and inclusion.

Specifically, they employed the "rule of three" a principle from storytelling whereby a trio of events is considered more effective than a standalone appearance.

Meghan Markle's wedding ceremony included 3 notable appearances from the black community including a Karen Gibson's Gospel Kingdom Choir, the Reverend Michael Curry and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

The takeaway for you: look for symbolic opportunities, rather than just your words to reinforce your message.

4. Know who your most important stakeholders really are.

Don't let the star-studded guest list fool you. The royal wedding was a made for television affair.  "This was a well-produced show," says Elaine Lui, a celebrity blogger who covered the Royal Wedding for CTV. "This should not be surprising because this woman comes from television and she put show business into that show."

By focusing on creating a show the world could watch, Markle, Prince Harry and the event team displayed a keen understanding that the key stakeholders of the monarchy aren't Hollywood celebrities or members of the aristocracy, but the media and the public, whose support of the royals is what keeps them in power.

The lesson for you: when cultivating influence, go beyond the usual suspects and consider who your most important stakeholders actually are. 

Simply put, a leader without influence isn't much of a leader at all. Markle's example can provide any leader with useful tips to build influence in even the most sedate organizational culture.

Published on: May 29, 2018