Using Persuasion and Influence to Lead
By Michael Lee, Author of “How To Be An Expert Persuader”
There is a direct link between persuasion and influence, yet they are not exactly the same thing. Persuasion happens with a person purposely or subliminally trying to get somebody else to agree with him or her. That is, there is obvious and deliberate effort.
On the other hand, influence happens when another person agrees with you, not because you deliberately took the effort but because he or she has confidence in you and believes your opinions and suggestions are of importance. You hold a great influence in the way other people think, probably because of your status or your reputation.
Leaders use both persuasion and influence to manage the people under them. It doesn’t matter if this ‘leader’ is at the near bottom or the top part of the organizational hierarchy. As long as there are people whose job is to follow, there are people who lead – and the people being led expect to be given a plan toward success. This can be more effectively done using persuasive leadership strategies. For the person who has the influence, it is his or her game plan or program for success that is being sought and heeded.
It is a common misconception that only those who belong to the senior management team can come up with a vision for the company. In truth, studies show that rank and file members often turn to their immediate bosses to gain a sense of direction. Thus, even the small bosses can have influence over their staff.
When we really think about it, influence and power to lead are not exclusive to bosses. Anybody, even the office janitor, has the capacity to affect how the people around him or her think, feel, and act. If others view your opinion as valuable and are willing to stop for a while to listen to what you have to say, then you have influence over them.
For instance, toddlers are able to influence their parents to buy them new toys just by being cute and charming, and just by being kids. But if they attempt to get what they want by throwing tantrums, that’s another story. It’s called coercion and, well, just plain brattiness.
When you ask other people to do something for you, regardless how politely you ask, they will always ask “why.” More often than not, they will also be wondering how they will benefit from following you, though most wouldn’t say that out loud.
In order for you to influence people or persuade them to give their agreement, you have to be ready to justify the reason why what you want to happen should happen. After this, you should be prepared to negotiate and be open to compromise.
Some people confuse influence with bribery because both involve the offering of something to gain favor. However, it should be made clear that bribery always involves a payback or an offer, while influence can happen even without anything on the table. Influence can be based on good faith alone.
To be an effective leader, not only will you need to be good at persuading people, you must, at least, have enough charisma to influence them without much effort. The key to good management is to have people who will willingly listen to you and follow (sometimes without question or hesitation). You want to lead without having to coerce others to follow. If you have influence, order in the ranks will not be a problem.
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