By Ron Price
Of all the skills in the Complete Leader skillset library, persuasion is one that never elicits a neutral response. People either love the idea of it or are repulsed by it, often because of the negative connotation of the word. While it is sometimes used interchangeably with “manipulation,” the motive behind persuasion makes all the difference, and it is actually a critical skill to develop while on the journey to becoming a Complete Leader. Ultimately, one of the most important roles of a leader is to inspire or persuade people to make commitments that they wouldn’t otherwise make.
Before you can even begin to build this critical leadership competency, you have to understand the difference between “persuasion” and “manipulation.” While manipulation is taking advantage of someone for your own benefit by convincing them to make commitments that they don’t want to make or that will negatively impact them, persuasion is convincing others to change the way they think, believe, or behave. It’s influencing someone to make commitments that they wouldn’t otherwise make that will be beneficial for them in the long term, even though they may not recognize yet that it’s in their best interest. Again, it is motivation that is key—whether you are persuading someone for their own good, or for your own personal gain.
Think of it like a dance. There is a leader and a follower, and a good leader is never going to ask the other person to follow in a way that is detrimental to their well-being or that doesn’t help to advance their interests. But they are still going to guide them toward the best path. You can become a skilled persuader by building and developing these three components and taking practical steps with each.
First, you need credibility, or your personal brand. Before you even begin to persuade someone, they already have an opinion about you. The question is, what is that opinion? Every time someone is exposed to you, either in person or through digital media, it’s either adding positive awareness about you or it’s doing the opposite to become a negative opinion of you.
Meaning, your history is your greatest influence on your ability to persuade. Credibility is the foundation for all persuasion, and the first thing to do is to manage your personal brand well. Get to know your own credibility better by asking those close to you for three strengths and one weakness that they see in you. Once you notice a pattern, you can ask yourself how you want to amplify those strengths that others have identified in you to enhance your brand.
Next, you’ll need to be logical. When you’re looking to persuade someone, is your presentation clear, understandable, and rational? If you try to persuade people in a way that doesn’t make sense, it’s very hard to be convincing. You have to lay out a road map for what you want them to consider.
You can practice this by thinking of someone who changed the way you viewed something, and about how they used logic to do it. By observing other persuasive leaders, you can learn from them and discover ways to emulate their approach. Adopt those traits in your own unique way.
Lastly, use conviction. Whoever you are persuading is going to judge how confident you are about what you are encouraging them to do. This component is all about passion, enthusiasm, and how you tell a story. People make decisions emotionally, even if they are analytical. They will use their analysis to feel right about the decision.
In preparing to exercise the skill of persuasion, always conduct a motive check. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I trying to persuade this person?” This offers both a confirmation of your confidence in the idea and moral protection—the purpose of persuading this person is to make their life better.
If you are going to be a Complete Leader, you really need to embrace your role as a persuader. You can’t ignore this skill simply because it is uncomfortable for you. At the same time, you can’t be a manipulative persuader. Approach this skill with humility, empathy, and confidence, and one day someone will come back to you and say, “You changed my life for the better because of what you persuaded me to do.”
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