If there’s one area of leadership where “my way or the highway” just doesn’t work over the long haul, it’s how you choose to engage and influence those on your team and others within your organization—up, down or across. Newer generations are asking why, not just what, and leaders need to equip themselves with tools to negotiate agreement and buy-in. You may find that your typical, tried-and-true leadership style that previously wowed the masses, nowadays is met with blank stares on a good day or downright hostility and resistance on a bad day.
My experience is that most leaders don’t intend to assert themselves one way or another—meaning, most of us don’t intentionally speak, act or show up in a manner that says “take me or leave me.” It’s simply that we each have a certain style or approach that is most comfortable; what I’ll call our “default.” Many leaders lack the awareness to not only recognize and name their default, but the time and opportunity to expand their leadership style bandwidth to meet people where they’re at.
5 Ways to Influence
One thing is for certain: Contemporary leadership and a diverse workforce demand versatility in how we attempt to influence, and the need to meet people where they’re at has never been greater. The art of influence is complex and reflects a myriad of opinions and approaches. One of my go-to’s is from Discovery Learning, Inc. whose research identifies five categories or styles most engaged by leaders attempting to influence their team:
- Asserting: When you know what you want, have a clear outcome identified and articulate your preferences clearly. You challenge others’ input, ideas, or questions, because you are just that clear.
- Rationalizing: Using facts, figures, logic and reason, as opposed to emotion or gut instinct. Those familiar with the Myers-Briggs will note that an ‘S’ tends to engage this style most often. Likewise, when dealing with an ‘S,’ this influence style is most effective.
- Negotiating: The ability to compromise and make concessions to reach consensus and common ground. A leader employing this style doesn’t think in a black and white way, but embraces the gray, takes the pulse of the group and considers the impact of a decision on all involved.
- Bridging: Intentionally building relationships and connecting with others in your organization. Often demonstrated in leaders who engage in meaningful exchanges that reflect active listening, thoughtful questions and authentic concern for others.
- Inspiring: The ability to influence by creating a sense of shared purpose, accountability and possibility. An inspiring leader will paint the picture of a vision and can create a relevant connection to it for each person around the table. “We’re all in this together and here is what the ideal outcome means to you … and you … and you.”
No one style is more effective than the next. The trick is two-fold – first, to become a versatile leader with the ability to use all five styles depending on what the situation, audience and context demand. And second, to develop the agility to change course if/when your approach isn’t working.
Remember—everyone defines “great leaders” differently. The most influential leaders not only know their audience, but are adept at engaging a variety of approaches to effectively connect with, build trust and inspire across the organization. What’s holding you back from expanding your greatness?