Persuasion as a tool of influence

A quote attributed to Robert K. Greenleaf:

“Persuasion involves arriving at a feeling of rightness about a belief or action through one’s own intuitive sense. One takes an intuitive step, from the closest approximation to certainty that can be reached by conscious logic (which is sometimes not very close) to the state in which one can say with conviction, “This is where I stand!” The act of persuasion, thus defined, would help order the logic and favor the intuitive step. But the person being persuaded must take that intuitive step alone, untrammeled by coercive or manipulative stratagems of any kind.” (Frick, 2004, p. 143)

Reflections on persuasion vs. positional power:

  • Persuasive negotiation provides buy in.  Positional power (and coercion) does not
  • A key to effective persuasion is empowering those around us.
  • In adopting the use of persuasion we acknowledge the relationship between the Servant-Leader and those being served.  Constructive feedback doesn’t naturally go up a vertically structured organizational pyramid.  Good leaders make it safe for others to give them feedback.
  • In developing these relationships we build up an emotional bank account.  We can occasionally make a small withdrawal without destroying our own personal credibility.
  • While at AT&T, Robert K. Greenleaf was able to navigate the organizational culture without being encumbered by positional authority.  This allowed him to provide insights to AT&T President’s that they might not be able to otherwise obtain.
  • One of the biggest challenges in leveraging the value of persuasion vs. positional power is the need to recognize the informal organization within any group and to have a lifelong commitment to learning.
  • When people do only what they were told, the people are being compliant but there is very likely a lack of commitment.
  • A leader who relies on a coercive Behavioral nature is working from the same place that bullies come from.  It is hard to come back from that place.
  • It is so hard to gain trust and so easy to lose it.  When you do something good few persons know about it. Do something bad and everyone knows about it.
  • Whether we realize it or not a reliance on coercive power within an organization can be recognized by customers and suppliers with potentially devastating results.

The persuasive power of example:

  • Actions speak louder than words.  Never ask anyone to do things you wouldn’t do
  • You need to walk a mile in people’s shoes to know how they feel.  Picking up a broom once in a while sends a powerful message.
  • By understanding those we lead we can sometimes get people to do things they didn’t realize they would enjoy doing.  A key is to set an expectation.
  • When people go above and beyond, you know you are leading well.  Commitment, loyalty, and trust are key.

Challenging situations:

  • It can be hard to know what will motivate any given individual.  Some people appear to not want to make decisions, or think.  In a perfect world the Servant-Leader will demonstrate endless patience as an empathetic listener and coach.  Self-awareness on the part of the leader will guide careful choices what to say in certain situations.  You need to manage your own emotions.
  • One of our members shared the experience of seeing her Board of Directors fail to acknowledge the extraordinary work done by her staff.  While the situation does not speak directly to persuasion vs. positional power it speaks volumes to the dynamics involved when a Servant-Leader is not supported by those with greater positional power, and of the challenges of leading up.
  •    A major problem in exerting positional power is the fact that can lead to a dangerous game of brinksmanship.  Eventually good people rise up against an overuse of coercive/positional power.  They leave or get him/her to leave.
  • Kids appear to be able to naturally sense coercive traits in others.

Insights from the group:

  • Program management is a good format to find leaders.  They are getting a group to achieve a project while holding very little positional power.
  • The server shared that he appreciated our conversation about not being bully managers.
  • Yvonne’s grandmother was the head housekeeper for the Governor General of Jamaica and had amazing positional power.
  • Surround yourself with people that know more than you.
  • Many leaders are do as I say not as I do.  Reality is People do as you do.  We always lead by example, regardless of our intent.
  • We lead from our mental state.  We need to be aware of our state of mind.
  • Do people talk about you over the dinner table?  What do they say about you?

Suggestion for next topic:  The burden of leadership.

Frick, Don M.   (2004). Robert k. Greenleaf: a life of servant leadership.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.  San Francisco.

Author: Dan Lococo

I am a whole person called to engage with others as they realize their own wholeness. Service is the act of engaging with others on their journey to realizing their own wholeness. (December, 2013)

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