The best leaders are able to influence others to do something and think it was all their idea. Don’t worry about taking credit for every good thing that happens on your watch. As the leader, you get credit whenever your followers succeed because you created the environment that allowed their success.
The Art of Persuasion
Aristotle was a master of the art persuasion, and he outlines his thinking in his work, Rhetoric, where he identifies three important factors: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos (credibility) persuades people using character. If you are respectful and honest, people will be more likely to follow you because of your character. Your character convinces the follower that you are someone who is worth listening to for advice.
Pathos (emotional) persuades people by appealing to their emotions. For example, when a politician wants to gain support for the bill, it inevitably is argued, “it’s for the children!” Babies, puppies, and kitties abound in advertising for a reason. Although a car is neither male nor female, they are sometimes called “sexy” in car commercials. Pathos allows you to tie into emotional triggers that will capture a person’s attention and enlist their support, but it can be easily abused, leading to a loss of Ethos, as described above.
Logos (logical) persuades people by means persuading by appealing to their intellect. This was Aristotle’s favorite and his forte’, but not everyone reacts on a rational level.
Of the three, Ethos must always come first. Ideally, you want to appeal to Pathos, back your arguments up with Logos, and never lose Ethos. President Bill Clinton appealed to people using Pathos, saying often, “I feel your pain,” but there were serious questions raised about his Ethos, and he often did not back up his appeals with Logos. There is no doubt that he was a successful, but there is also no doubt that he was not as successful as he could have been.
The Principles of Influence
Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. once said, “It is through the influence process that we generate and manage change.” In his studies, he outlined five universal principles of influence, which are useful and effective in a wide range of circumstances.
Reciprocation: People are more willing to do something for you if you have already done something for them first. Married couples do this all the time, giving in on little things so they can ask for that big night out or a chance to watch the game later.
Commitment: You cannot get people to commit to you or your vision if they don’t see your commitment. Once you provide a solid, consistent example, they will feel they have to do the same.
Authority: If people believe you know what you are talking about and accept your expertise, they are far more likely to follow you. Despite the rebel cry, “Question Authority,” when people need help with something, they will seek out an authority figure. If you place a man in a tie next to a man in jeans and a ratty T-shirt, people will invariably ask the man in the tie for advice on a technical subject first simply because he looks like an authority.
Social Validation: As independent as we like to consider ourselves, we love to be part of a crowd. It will always be a part of us, that school age desire to be accepted, no matter how many times our parents tell us, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you join them?” People will always jump on a bandwagon if their friends like the band.
Friendship: People listen to their friends. If they know you and like you, they are far more likely to support you. A pleasant personality can make up for a multitude of failures. More than one leader has been abandoned at the first sign of trouble because they were not very well liked.
Creating an Impact
As mentioned before, communication is accomplished with more than just words. The more of the previous leadership skills you develop, the more you will make an impact. In addition, the bigger the impact, the greater the positive change you can create.
Impact is created by a number of intangible factors:
• A confident bearing, tempered by a kindly manner
• A strong sense of justice, tempered by mercy
• A strong intellect, tempered by the willingness to learn
• A strong sense of emotion, tempered by self-control
• A strong ability to communicate, tempered by the ability to listen
• A strong insistence on following the rules, tempered by flexibility
• A strong commitment to innovation, tempered by situational reality
• A strong commitment to your followers, tempered by the ability to lead
Above all: maintain a strong personal commitment to your vision.
This post is from October’s topic on “Leadership and Influence“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.