“The legend of Steve Jobs is that he transformed our lives with the strength of his convictions. The key to his greatness, the story goes, was his ability to bend the world to his vision. The reality is that much of Apple’s success came from his team’s pushing him to rethink his positions. If Jobs hadn’t surrounded himself with people who knew how to change his mind, he might not have changed the world.” (Harvard Business Review, 2021)
Managing Through Persuasive Leadership
In business, there is no one definitive answer to the question of how to be successful. However, if one trait is universally seen as necessary for an effective leader, it is the ability to persuade others. This can be done through sheer force of personality or more subtle methods such as clever argumentation and reasoning. In this blog, we will explore what persuasive leadership is and discuss some tips on how you can become a more persuasive leader.
What is a persuasive leadership style?
Persuasiveness is the ability to sell ideas, methods, goods, or services to others. Individuals who are persuasive are able to influence the people around them, and can even compel them into sharing viewpoints and undertaking certain behaviors and actions. Persuasive leaders do not only preach their vision or ideas to their followers, they also convince them to take up the cause, because it’s the right thing to do.
Dr. Robert Cialdini’s seminal Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion discusses the seven principles of persuasion, helping to explain why persuasive leaders are able to appeal to large groups of people:
- Individuals who are unsure of a situation will follow others
- People are more likely to comply with requests made by someone they like.
- People tend to treat you the way you treat them
- People are more likely to keep promises they make voluntarily and explicitly
- Authority: Studies show that people defer to experts
- People want more of a (something) commodity when it is scarce
- We like individuals who are similar to “us” (shared identity like religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, family, political opinion, etc.)
The persuasive leadership style is particularly effective in situations where people share a common cause (or problem) that usually revolves around changing or reforming systems, institutions, or organizations.
Examples of persuasive leaders in history
The following examples of famous world leaders below demonstrate the degree of influence persuasion can have over individuals, groups, nations and the world. For example, a persuasive leader can instill motives, and behaviors in people by connecting with them through reason, values, emotion and empowering them in common cause. Persuasive leaders not only direct employees, they also convince these employees to get on board with their vision, because it is unquestionably the right thing to do. Each of the following leaders use persuasion to change the world:
Winston Churchill: through persuasion led his country, in its darkest hour, he was also the most eloquent interpreter of what was occurring in Europe and what was likely to happen if the Commonwealth did not act. He saw what Hitler (and later Stalin) represented and what tyrants were capable of doing. Through the (BBC) radio, he gave hope to millions of people living in the occupied countries of Europe and persuaded the Americans to provide aid through lend-lease. The main pillars of his leadership were courage, integrity, vision, and the ability to communicate ideas.
Abraham Lincoln: was a natural leader who engendered a commanding presence in every venue. His imposing demeanor and forceful personality naturally attracted people to follow him and his cause. Through inspiring public speeches he communicated a bold vision for the American Union and successfully waged a political struggle and civil war that preserved it. He is credited for ending slavery and laying the foundations for African-American civil and social freedoms. Lincoln was forceful, bold, a strong negotiator and had no fears or doubts about the future he was leading America toward.
Nelson Mandela: as a leader, he advocated for peace through words and actions. He had an imposing presence and disarmed enemies with his smile and respect. He was compassionate and demonstrated a high level of forgiveness and positive thinking. Further, he was laser focused on the big picture; the missions that went beyond himself and through persuasion, inspired millions to follow him. His negotiations in the early 1990s with South African President F.W. de Klerk helped end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation.
Leadership by Persuasion
Persuasive leadership requires leaders to work with and through people to achieve their objectives. Influencing followers requires a persuasive leader to engender confidence, the ability to negotiate and set goals based on reason. What’s more, the leader must frame their ideas in ways that appeal to their followers’ values, beliefs, and emotions. In sum, the combination of reason, action and emotion are strong motivators for people who believe in, and share a common goal or cause.
How Persuasion works
Persuasion can be a powerful force that affects people’s decision-making process and actions. It is a process by which an individual exerts influence over others in ways that change/affect their beliefs, actions, and behaviors. Some people have a natural inclination toward being persuasive. However, it is a skill that can be learned and practiced.
Five Persuasion Skills to Help Managers Lead
- Communication: persuading is a process that involves influencing others; the most effective way is to communicate your vision, goals, or ideas.
- Active Listening: actively listen to others; it shows that you’re patient and respectful to them. Giving people the chance to share their thoughts makes them feel valued.
- Emotional Intelligence: If you can pick up on your listener’s emotions, you can respond appropriately. Adjust your persuasion tactics depending on your listener’s body language and mood.
- Logic and Reasoning: listeners should make a logical choice to fully commit to your ideas. Use logic and reasoning to support your position and plans.
- Establish Credibility: To sustain those relationships, you must also work in their best interest and achieve results (small & large wins). Coworkers are more likely to agree with you when they succeed alongside you. The more progress they achieve, the better your credibility.
A Leader Cannot Persuade without Trust
The implementation of a vision requires trust. Therefore, trust is an essential characteristic of a good leader, especially when developing relationships and influencing people. There are two reasons why trust is critical for persuasive leaders; trust removes thoughts of 1) manipulation and 2) doubt.
Tips for building trust with employees (direct reports) and team members:
- Take a personal interest in their lives and concerns.
- Allow them to get to know you personally.
- Implement their suggestions, opinions, and ideas
- Recognize their accomplishments, both large and small
- Support them in their jobs
- Remember the names of your employees.
- Follow through on commitments and keep your word.
What is the difference between a manager and a leader?
The word “manager” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, as mentioned in previous articles. While there are similarities, such as the need to command respect, solve problems, exercise authority, and accept responsibility. It is helpful to view the relationship between “manager” and “leader” as a spectrum.
The Leader – Manager Spectrum
On one side sits the pure “manager,” the person who creates processes, allocates resources, works with data, sets measurable targets, and administers the organization’s apparatus. On another side of the spectrum sits the pure “leader.”
They are charismatic individuals who bring people together through vision and inspiration. Leaders live their vision and share it with those around them. Leaders develop genuine relationships, engender loyalty, and have a natural appeal that motivates and encourages people around them to follow.
Managers and Management Styles
Some managers will be more “technocratic”, focusing on business systems, metrics and spreadsheets. In contrast, other managers may naturally be “visionaries”, thinking of the future, planning, mobilizing and motivating the troops. The management process requires managers to act as leaders and vice-versa. As a result, successful managers will have both managerial and leadership skills and abilities. Some managers will sit closer to the manager side of the spectrum, while others will express leadership qualities.
What is a Persuasive Management style?
Persuasive management style: persuasive managers know the “big picture” and are skilled at convincing employees to agree with their viewpoint and methods of completing tasks and achieving goals. They depend heavily on their ability to lead, delegate and motivate the team.
A persuasive manager is not interested in the minute details, those are for the bookkeepers, administrators, assistants and the HR department. Moreover, the persuasive manager’s strength is in their ability to take the time and listen to their team, invite questions and implement suggestions, and through persuasion align everyone toward achieving the objectives, their targets, in short, their vision.
Note: persuasive managers are particularly effective in implementing organizational change.
Tips for Managers Using Persuasion Skills
Effectively applying persuasion skills in the workplace will require time, commitment, enthusiasm, and practice. Here are some tips on how to persuade others effectively:
- Focus on trust: If you ask someone to take a risk or step outside their comfort zone, they must trust you and your judgment.
- Be aware of your surroundings: part of the persuasive conversation is picking the right time and place and knowing your audience.
- Find common interests: persuasion is most effective when there is common ground or shared experience between the leader and followers. Once the common ground has been established, focus on shared problems or mutual goals.
- Use facts and feelings: To influence others, you must present solid facts showing how your ideas will benefit them. Connecting with people emotionally means painting a picture of how they will thrive as a result.
- Know your cause: If you don’t believe in what you are selling, nobody else will. Your cause, mission big or small must genuinely be one that you genuinely connect with in reason and emotion.
The persuasive leader can form a vision and inspire an entire organization toward achieving it. They understand their audience and can connect with them through reason, emotion, and shared experience. This leadership style is particularly effective when a group of people shares a common cause (or problem) that usually revolves around changing or reforming systems, institutions, or organizations.
Examples of other leadership styles include bureaucratic leadership, a democratic leader, and other leaders. To learn more about management & leadership techniques, recommended reading:
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