How the best leaders use persuasion and influence

John Sherman

Even the greatest of leaders are nothing without the support of the people behind them. Getting people behind you is often the hardest part of being a leader, though, which is why doing so is one of the easiest ways to identify a truly great leader. Here are some characteristics that great leaders show when looking for support from others.


Be empathic

Work can be challenging at times and even the strongest of people might sometimes feel as though they should just give up. Showing people that you understand the challenges they are facing and that you sympathize with the difficulties that may be having is a great way to help people connect with you and have confidence in what you are saying.

Finding familiar ground with people is a great way of showing that your empathy is genuine. Let your people know that you identify with their situation. Once people know that they are dealing with a real person rather than an un-feeling robot, it will be much easier for them to get behind you with enthusiasm.

Also, it’s absolutely critical to be humble when speaking with others. After all, as this study has shown, humble leaders are more likely to have committed employees behind them.

Be sure to listen

Your people will respond better if they know that you have their interests at heart as well as the company’s, so it is always helpful to listen to them whenever you can. Holding meetings at regular intervals will give others the opportunity to pass on their opinions and concerns. At the same time, you should let people know that your door is always open should somebody have something they want to say in private.

Be willing to make changes where possible so your people can provide you with valuable and constructive feedback. A workforce that knows you are willing to listen to them when needed will be inspired to get behind you and work towards accomplishing big goals.

Have confidence in what you are doing

You can’t expect people to have confidence in you if you don’t have confidence in yourself and in what you are doing. One effective way of having confidence in what you are doing is by gaining the appropriate knowledge before taking action. Armed with knowledge, you can act with conviction and this will convey to the people that are looking to you for leadership.

Speaking clearly also matters. If you speak with clarity then you will show that you have confidence in your actions. Simply put, speaking clearly about the tasks ahead will let people know that you really do know what you are talking about. When they have confidence in YOU, then your workforce can have confidence in what they are doing as well.

Use anecdotes

People find it easy to relate to others that have found themselves in similar situations, making anecdotes a very effective way to connect with others. Stories about other people who have solved particular problems or gotten promoted through the ranks can inspire others to do the same and give them lofty goals to aim for at the same time. Much of the method behind inspiring people is to show them that it can be done. Anecdotes are a great way to demonstrate that something can be achieved, and by people just like themselves.

Be sure to use genuine stories though, as making something up can backfire terribly and cause your workforce to lose trust in you. People have a fairly accurate “inner radar” for detecting made up stories.

Be honest with people

If you are honest with your workforce, then they will know that they can trust you in the future and trust is an essential part of getting people to follow you. Being honest helps people to accept both criticism and praise, meaning that they are then likely to react positively moving forward. Show dishonesty and people will immediately question the integrity of every subsequent word and action in the future.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that brutal honesty is sometimes not the best option and a more diplomatic approach might be needed in these instances, particularly in sensitive situations. In sensitive situations, it is best to balance honesty with the need to be considerate.

Set achievable goals

People like having something to aim for. It allows them to check their progress along the way and see how close they are to reaching a destination. Achieving goals also gives the person a sense of achievement while letting them know that they need to push harder if they wish to achieve even bigger things. Great leaders will use goals to measure progress and persuade their teams to make bigger strides. These goals can give your people a competitive edge and a sense of pride in knowing that they are out-performing others and could be in line for rewards such as promotions in the future.

However, the critical detail here is to make sure that any goals you do set are achievable or your efforts are likely to backfire. You can always re-evaluate the goals further down the line if you think they are not challenging enough for your teams.

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