Steve Jobs stepped onto a San Francisco stage and proclaimed, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” By the time he left that stage, he had persuaded millions of people to queue up in long lines to purchase his newest product–the iPhone. Leaders often need persuasion skills to motivate followers and influence those for whom they have no direct authority. Leadership effectiveness is, therefore, increased by acquiring and strategically applying a full range of persuasion strategies. The effectiveness of a persuasion strategy is determined by five factors: a) the purpose for persuading another, b) the influencer’s communication skills, c) a target’s receptiveness, d) the nature of the strategy, and e) the relative power of the influencer and of the target.
There are six persuasion strategies leaders can use that have proven effective over time.
- Logical persuasion, use facts and rationality to make a case.
- Personal persuasion relies on attractive personality characteristics of the leader, including friendliness and the use of inspiration, praise, and appealing to the target’s personal values.
- Consultation, a participative process in which suggestions and opinions are solicited and incorporated into a proposal or idea.
- Reciprocation, exchanging something of value to the target for acceptance of the leader’s proposal.
- Forcefulness, using an overbearing communication style, fear, or heavy persistence.
- Alliances, align the support of individuals or groups to convince another of the merits of the leader’s proposal.
While there are no set rules ensuring the success of any attempt to influence another, several factors can assist in selecting a strategy. Begin by recognizing every individual and organization operates with a unique set of perceptions and underlying assumptions affecting their interpretation of messages and actions. Strongly shaping these perceptions are the work environment, organizational culture, behavioral norms, values, interpersonal relationships, and loyalties. Attending and appealing to these factors increases the likelihood of successful persuasion. Finally, good leadership demands that any attempt to influence another be done in an ethical manner and only for legitimate purposes. A leader who fails to act ethically will never establish a personal reputation for effectively accomplishing goals with and through others.
Eiser, B. J. A., Eiser, A. R., & Parmer, M. A. (2006). Power of persuasion: Influence tactics for health care leaders. Leadership in Action, 26(1), 3–7.
Grant, A. (2021). Persuading the Unpersuadable: Lessons from science – and the people who were able to sway Steve Jobs. Harvard Business Review, 99(2).