The key to being a powerful leader isn't giving orders -- it's extending your influence. And one important way to do that is by spreading and soliciting new ideas. 

As an influential leader, you are a conduit of ideas. Some are your own, while others are from your team. Some are well-baked concepts and validated theories, while others are raw musings and trial balloons. But to be an influential leader, one way or another, you must forward these ideas and ultimately convert them into action.

Zig-Zag Into Interactions

Many great ideas originate (or are developed) organically, often through informal interactions rather than formal meetings -- the adult version of midnight discussions in the hallway of your college dorm. Most such discussions can be about 10 minutes long, and can be stimulated by questions like:

  • What do you think about this idea I have?
  • How would you deal with X challenge or initiative?
  • What's the first thing you would do if you had my job?
  • What's on your dream list of things to work on?
  • I would like you to participate in X meeting [that the person would not normally take part in]. Will you do so and share your thoughts?
  • I would like you to discuss my idea with your teammates. Will you see what they think, then give me completely unfiltered feedback?

Rather than schedule these interactions, which can feel too formal and potentially stifling, you should budget five or ten extra minutes to zig-zag your way to meetings, lunch or even the restroom. Pop in on your team and strike up a conversation using some variation on the suggestions above. 

While some of your interactions might be in-depth, most of them should simply about connecting with people for no immediate business reason. You can even add in a lunch once in a while with someone you would not typically have lunch with, like someone several levels below you or in another department.

Start small: Try zig-zagging into these conversations once a week for a month ... and watch your leadership influence grow.